The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 27, 2014

Teen talk of suicide warrantSconcern

Why it matters: Many girls are still thinking about suicide despite concerted efforts to combat self-esteem issues.

Everyone who has been a teenager or is around teenagers today is well aware of what an emotionally turbulent time of life it can be.

Unfortunately, results from the Minnesota Student Survey indicate that girls’ feelings of self-worth and hope aren’t improving much locally. About 35 percent and 34 percent of Blue Earth County ninth-grade and 11th-grade girls, respectively, reported feeling “very trapped, lonely, sad, blue, depressed or hopeless” about their future. In Nicollet County, the figures were 20 percent and 41 percent for ninth- and 11th-grade girls.

When results similar to these were being noticed in the late 1990s and peaked in 2007 at about 40 percent, the Mankato community took action and focused attention on finding ways to teach young girls how to build self-esteem. That’s how invaluable programs such as the Mankato YWCA’s Girls on the Run program were born. The program teaches girls how to accept their bodies, how to run for fun and how to be a team player.

Other programs also work with girls to teach them how to cope. Girls Inc., a new program through the YWCA, aims to inspire girls in grades 6-8 to be strong and smart through programs and experiences that help them navigate gender, economic and social barriers. And SURGE Leadership is a curriculum taught by Fusion Life & Leadership to at-risk girls in grades 9-12 in the Mankato school system to help them understand their ability to control their futures.

Although numerous girls have been helped by these program and others like it, not every girl enrolls in a program. Some girls are experts at hiding just how “at-risk” they are. Making the programs visible and accessible is important so that more girls can be involved. It’s definitely a step in the right direction that the YWCA announced last week that it is partnering with Fusion and Life & Leadership to expand the SURGE program, which will be offered by the YWCA this summer.

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