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How Adults Can Avoid Posing Barriers to Youth Mental Health

Professionals across the country agree that American youth face ever increasing mental health challenges. More than a year of social isolation brought on by the pandemic and other societal upsets have compounded the anxiety and depression students were already experiencing. But adults who are tasked with helping youth address their mental health – parents, teachers and administrators, and law enforcement – are sometimes a barrier to youth receiving the help they so desperately need. Austin PBS and Well Beings team up to take an honest look at these challenges as well as solutions for ensuring adults are better equipped to offer help and hope to youth when they most need it.

If you joined us for the live event or watched the archived panel discussion video, please help us improve future content and events by taking this brief survey.

About the Host 

Leslie Rhode, Austin Journalist 

Leslie Rhode is an award-winning television journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in Washington, D.C., Texas and Arkansas. She has been a lead news anchor covering stories of national consequence and local impact. She has interviewed top political leaders including a U.S. president, Fortune 500 business leaders and Hollywood celebrities.  

Leslie was an anchor and reporter in D.C. for five years at WJLA-TV. She worked two stints at KXAN-TV in Austin for a total of 13 years where she was passionate about community involvement. She currently serves on the state Board of the Texas Advocacy Project which provides free legal services for victims of domestic violence. She lives in Austin with her family where she is a freelance journalist and media/communications consultant. 

About the Panelists 

Karen Ranus, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Central Texas) 

Karen Ranus has been the Executive Director of NAMI Central Texas since 2014. She sits on the Travis County Behavioral Health & Criminal Justice Advisory Committee and Psychiatric Stakeholder’s Group and the Steering Committee for the Austin State Hospital System Redesign. Karen has developed and implemented mental health programs to address the needs of faith communities, law enforcement, workplaces, and parents of teens. She recently received national recognition as a “Local Hero” from the Charles Schwab Corp. Karen believes the power of storytelling engages people in important conversations on mental health. She is a frequent speaker where she often shares her own family’s story to help others overcome the prevalent shame and stigma of mental illness. 

Michael S. Cox, MA, LPC, Co-Founder, Therapist, Whole Life Priorities 

Michael Cox is a Level 2 Certified Restoration Therapist and uses his training to assist individuals, marriages and families to discover their God-given potential and to see it actualized. He has been in private practice and consulting since January 2020 and utilizes a holistic approach in providing treatment. Together with his wife they conduct marriage seminars, coach couples in preparation for marriage and walk with families seeking to live healthy lives. Additionally, he utilizes his 20+ years of working with young people to inform and drive his work with adolescent development and emotional regulation. Michael is a National Trainer for the National Council for Behavioral Health in Mental Health First Aid which seeks to reduce stigma and increase awareness around mental health.  

Madeline Jasper, Electrical Engineer 

Madeline is a 25-year-old electrical engineer residing in Austin, Texas. For fun she loves to cook, hike, run half marathons, travel, and spend time with friends and family. Having lived with an anxiety disorder most of her life, along with receiving depression and panic disorder diagnoses as a young adult, she can speak to a number of different coping mechanisms and treatment options that she has participated in. Madeline has been volunteering with NAMI since early 2020 and she is passionate about advocating for others with Mental Illness and sharing her lived experience in the hope that others can connect and relate to her struggles and healing. 

Caitlin Andress, Student 

Caitlin Andress is an undergraduate student in her senior year of study in Psychology, Biology, and Pre-Medicine at St. Edward’s University. Deeply passionate about mental health, she believes that there is a connection between the body, mind, and soul. She is a firm believer in advocacy and utilizing one’s voice to have impact. She volunteers with NAMI as a youth presenter for their programs “Ending the Silence” and “Parents and Teachers as Allies”. In addition to mental health, she heavily values social justice. Her work on her campus earned her a Campus Ministry Excellence Award in “Global Responsibility and the Common Good”. She is also a driven student, having landed the Dean’s List in 2018 and 2020. She aspires to become a holistic psychiatrist and author in the future.  

Related Resources

About The Tour

The Well Beings Tour is making its way to cities across the country, hosted in partnership with local public media stations to present impactful experiences that connect audiences with mental health resources in the local community, strengthen community connections, and destigmatize mental health challenges. The Tour features moderated public discussions that share information and volunteer opportunities from local community and national organizations. The Tour is fostering new conversations about mental health through these local events — live or virtual, based on local public health conditions.

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    WellBeings.org is a mental health resource, not a crisis or suicide response website. If you are in crisis, or experiencing thoughts of suicide, please text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741), or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.