graphic about Teen Mental Health Resource Hub

In response to the growing mental health challenges teenagers are facing, the NC Alliance of YMCAs is coordinating a statewide effort aimed at supporting teen mental health. Through a $3.75 million grant awarded by North Carolina legislators to the Alliance, NC YMCAs are committed to addressing the critical needs of teens by identifying mental health challenges, providing resources and connections to mental health providers, and fostering supportive communities that understand mental health is part of our overall health. 

Youth Development leaders from Ys across North Carolina gathered March 20, 2024, at the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, N.C., to kick off this work together. Members of the Alliance’s Teen Mental Health Advisory Council, including YMCA staff and mental health experts, shared self-care strategies, resources, insight into this work through a diversity lens and practical ways to embed this work within the culture at YMCAs.

Recognizing the importance of mental well-being, especially for adolescents post-Covid, NC YMCAs are launching a multi-faceted approach. This includes the new Teen Mental Health Resource Hub, housed on the Alliance’s website at, a teen mental health destigmatization campaign, “Mental Health Has No Face,” new and expanded teen programming at Ys across the state, and partnerships with local mental health providers.

“YMCA staff aren’t experts in mental health, but they are experts in positive youth development,” said NC Alliance of YMCAs CEO Sheree Vodicka. “With teens experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts at increasingly alarming rates, we are committed to supporting teens and their families and connecting them to resources that can help.” Vodicka said that YMCA staff who work with teens are being trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA), which introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews adolescent development and teaches a five-step action plan for how to help teens in both crisis and non-crisis situations.

“With this training, combined with the Y’s approach to positive youth development incorporating character development and social emotional learning, NC YMCAs are in a strong position to help build resilience among teens and help teens understand that they are not alone and that we are here to help,” Vodicka said. “The Y has always valued community partnerships, and through this work, our Ys are expanding or starting partnerships with local mental health providers so that when Y staff identify a potential problem among youth at the Y, they have a process and path to refer them to a local mental health expert.”

Teen Mental Health Resource Hub & Awareness Campaign
NC YMCAs will provide a link to the new Teen Mental Health Resource Hub from their websites and promote the Mental Health Has No Face campaign to elevate awareness of the Y’s work to support teens and to destigmatize mental health. The YMCA of Greater Charlotte developed both the Resource Hub and the award-winning teen mental health destigmatization campaign last fall with funding from the City of Charlotte. The YMCA of Greater Charlotte is sharing these resources statewide as Ys work collectively to increase support for teens and families.

The Teen Mental Health Resource Hub offers education about mental health conditions, how to talk about mental health without judgment, self-care strategies, how to find mental health experts and how to access the Suicide Hotline at 988 via phone or text 24 hours a day.

Teen Programs Incorporating Mental Health Support 
The Alliance’s grant program enables YMCAs to build capacity for expanded teen programs with an intentional and consistent focus on mental health. While the approach will vary at YMCAs across the state, all NC YMCAs will engage mental health partners to be involved in their work so that there is ongoing education and mental health support provided to teens and their families. 
“This work will change the trajectory for our Ys for 10 to 20 years to come. This is not just something we’ll do right now. This is not a ‘program,’ but an intentional approach to our youth work, and our plan at the YMCA of High Point is to sustain this beyond the grant period through our annual campaign for fundraising,” said Lynn Lomax, President and CEO of the YMCA of High Point and chair of the NC Alliance of YMCAs Board of Directors. 

Twenty-four YMCA associations, with 120 branches and overnight camps around the state, are engaging in this work, including: 
•    Alamance County Family YMCA 
•    Cleveland County Family YMCA 
•    Eastern Carolina YMCA
•    Foundation YMCA of Wilson 
•    Gaston County Family YMCA 
•    Goldsboro Family YMCA
•    Harrison Family YMCA
•    Henderson Family YMCA 
•    J. Smith Young YMCA
•    Randolph-Asheboro YMCA 
•    Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA
•    Stanly County Family YMCA
•    Tom A. Finch Community YMCA
•    Williams YMCA of Avery County 
•    YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly
•    YMCA of Catawba Valley
•    YMCA of Greater Charlotte
•    YMCA of Greensboro
•    YMCA of High Point
•    YMCA of Northwest North Carolina
•    YMCA of South Hampton Road’s three branches in Eastern North Carolina 
•    YMCA of the Sandhills 
•    YMCA of the Triangle 
•    YMCA of Western North Carolina.

Teen Mental Health Advisory Council
The NC Alliance of YMCAs’ Teen Mental Health Advisory Council supports the Alliance’s coordinated statewide effort. The Advisory Council provides guidance, advice and expertise to the Alliance staff team around this emerging work and enhances the effectiveness of this work by leveraging specialized knowledge and facilitating connections with external stakeholders and experts. The Alliance values the diverse range of perspectives and expertise from these council members:

  • Ruby Brown-Herring, MEd, BSW, CEO of RBH Wellness Solutions and Consultant, NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child and Family Well-Being, Whole Child Section 
  • Karen Friedman, Director of Strategy and Quality Practices - Mental Health, YMCA of the USA
  • Kate Gross, Association Director of Teen and Family Engagement, YMCA of the Triangle
  • Pamela Hempstead, M.A., LCMHCA, Association Director of Mental Health, YMCA of Greater Charlotte
  • Nina Leger, MSW, Director of Contracts and Grants, National Alliance on Mental Illness, North Carolina (NAMI NC)
  • Ebone’ Mitchell, Director, Strategy and Quality Practices – Teens, YMCA of the USA
  • Erik Smith, LCMHC, Vice President, Cleveland County Family YMCA