Philly students tackle mental health with free online app and help from Eagles player Lane Johnson

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For many teens, growing up means grappling with a triple threat: the lingering pandemic, suffocating social expectations, and a world often marred by violence and economic hardship. The result? A generation struggling to breathe under the weight of mental health challenges.

Seventeen-year-old Joshua Scotland is a junior at Northeast High School and says being a teen today comes with its own problems, and that most of his peers don’t feel comfortable talking about their issues to others.

“We just want to stay to ourselves and not really share anything, we just want to be alone, that’s really what is happening to our generation,” said Scotland.

Joshua Scotland, 17, is a junior at Northeast High School. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

He says a lot of issues teens face while living in Philadelphia can be more stressful than their counterparts who live outside of the city.

Seeing friends lose their life to gun violence, suffer in poverty, or face struggles at home can all contribute to their mental health suffering.

Scotland shared, “A lot of things can affect your mental health. School, work, especially at home, a lot of kids go through things at home,” which he says can have a negative impact at school.

“They come to school, and it messes with their whole emotion, your mood.”

Joshua Scotland, 17, is a junior at Northeast High School. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The School District of Philadelphia is working to change that. They introduced a new online multi-platform tool called Kooth, which offers students in the district free mental health resources — including counseling, journaling, and a message board for students to communicate with each other anonymously about their mental health challenges.

Dr. Jayme Banks, the school district’s deputy chief of prevention, intervention, and trauma, says it’s working.

“They can do this with a whole lot of privacy. The whole world doesn’t have to see them go into the counselor’s office,” he said.

The numbers don’t lie: After the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing how students were impacted mentally by the pandemic. The results revealed high school students were under more mental threats than their previous counterparts.

  • January 3, 2024
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