*This article was initially published on UT Health San Antonio’s newsroom website and was republished on KSAT.com with permission from UT Health.
SAN ANTONIO — Coordinators at UT Health San Antonio are putting an urgent word out today about Project YES, which provides free, anonymous, online mental health resources to area young people coping with stress of the pandemic, school, relationships and the upcoming holidays.
Project YES (Youth Empowerment & Support) is an innovative approach to helping adolescents address common mental health issues. Of the first 200 youths ages 11-17 who participated, Project YES showed that from before to after taking part in the program, these young people had a 62% decrease in hopelessness, a 55% decrease in self-hate and a 64% improvement in perceived control.
The program is offered through UT Teen Health, an adolescent health and wellness program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (also called UT Health San Antonio).
The project is funded through a $260,000 contract awarded in November 2020 by the city of San Antonio.
“We have an ambitious goal to help 3,000 adolescents in our area by Dec. 31. We need to do this for our young people, each of whom offers enormous value to our society,” said Kristen Plastino, MD, vice chair of clinical operations in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Health San Antonio. Under Dr. Plastino’s leadership, UT Teen Health for years has offered programs in area school districts to reduce the risk of teenage pregnancies, another potential stressor for area youth.
Project YES is available in English and Spanish. Adolescents may choose to participate in up to three modules that address different mental health issues. The modules offer scientific evidence, suggest healthy ways of coping and ask students to give their best advice to other students.
“There are three steps,” explained Project YES Program Manager Jennifer Todd, JD, RN. “Try an activity, tell us what you think about it and then share your advice.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 20% of children with mental health difficulties have access to treatment, and of those 20%, only 1 in 5 complete the full course of treatment. With continuing shortages of mental health professionals in Texas and nationwide, especially in rural areas, there are not enough providers to offer evidence-based treatment. The “open access” approach of Project YES makes treatment convenient for families and confidential for teens.
Dr. Plastino encourages parents to really listen to their children and invite them to share their feelings and concerns with them without judgement. “Try to instill hope in your children and make sure you are doing OK. I don’t think it would hurt us adults to click on the link to Project YES to see if it can help us, too,” she said.
To contact UT Teen Health, visit https://www.utteenhealth.org or call 210-567-7036.