Wonderment Therapies teams up with Best Friends Mentoring to offer at-risk youth mental health training – The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON – A vulnerable youth is a minor who is less likely to make a successful transition to adulthood because of their psychological or environmental circumstances. On the western edge are two local programs that have come together to combine their efforts to bring about more positive change for at-risk youth in Southwest North Dakota.

The Best Friends Mentoring Program and Wonderment Therapies have partnered to train and reach their mentors and mentees to increase awareness and understanding of what to look for in children and young people with mental health issues.

The Best Friends Mentoring Program has been engaged in a mental health assessment since Fall 2021 and through research discovered that Wonderment Therapies specialized in child psychology.

“I just think the sky’s the limit…I don’t know what might develop, but I only see good things happening,” said Angie Rabbitt, executive director of the Best Friends Mentoring Program. “It’s just so necessary and … we have this gap here. We don’t have the resources here that we could find and I hope it raises awareness of the issues. I’m hoping that this early intervention is a fix… I don’t even know if we’ll know until we start peeling those layers off.”

Over the past week, Wonderment Therapies has conducted some staff training and selected a screening tool to identify the underlying mental health issues affecting youth in this region. The aim will be to train all prospective mentors on what to look for in their mentees.

“…I’ve seen more and more reports as they get back into the school year, face to face 100% of the time (and) only seen a drastic increase in reports of bullying, themselves. Confidence has plummeted, Children have isolated themselves. It’s a broad spectrum,” said Best Friends’ Katelyn Nguyen, who serves as an AmeriCorps/VISTA member. “Even the parents start to get to the point where they get a little desperate and they’re like, ‘Do you have services? What can you do?’ Even though they already have that mentoring relationship, it’s a lot harder. So we’re trying to pinpoint so we can help alleviate some of that.”

The Best Friends Mentoring Program is a Dickinson-based organization that provides mentors to communities in Stark County and other counties in southwest North Dakota. The program is also expanding its services in schools to include youth ages 6-16, but also has youth seeking support throughout high school. The volunteers range in age from 16 to 80 and are always looking for more, Nguyen said.

“Most of our mentors are actually volunteers. To be honest, we’re only looking for people who want to make a difference, who actually want to have a positive interaction with the youth, which is mainly our criterion. Of course we do background checks and other security checks to make sure children are safe because that is our top priority. So it’s really easy to be a mentor,” she added.

Wonderment Therapies was started by Jenna Weisz in 2019 when she decided to start her own mental health practice offering occupational therapy for children and adolescents while also using behavior analysis services.

From left: Best Friends Mentoring Program Executive Director Angie Rabbitt and Katelyn Nguyen visit Wonderment Therapies’ Kacey Sykora, Erin McCurry and Jenna Weisz Monday, March 21, 2022 at Wonderment Therapies, located in downtown Dickinson.

Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press

“We’re seeing the impact of COVID, we’re seeing the impact of social media and the news and … how that is affecting their own mental health,” Weisz said, adding that people are not used to isolation.

Erin McCurry, who joined Wonderment Therapies in June 2021, sees this partnership as something much needed.

“I think people don’t always know where to find services, and Best Friends was already a program that was (and) implemented in town,” McCurry noted. “We already have some of these kids who fall through the cracks across the spectrum and so it was a great opportunity to step in, pair up and see how we can better serve. It doesn’t have to be children who fall through the cracks either; it can be any child. Mental health services are ridiculously difficult to find in this city, so any facility we can offer is an advantage.”

Although not specifically certified in psychology, within the field of occupational therapy there is a discipline that understands how to look at the whole individual as well as their families and recognize where the underlying problems lie, Weisz noted.

McCurry added that training can mean different things for each individual, such as: B. teaching coping strategies, emotion regulation and so on.

“A big part of what we do in this office, which is a little different from the other clinics in town, is that we see a lot of kids who have behavioral health issues, whether it’s from ADHD, trauma, anxiety, depression or autism… All the therapists that work in this office, that’s basically our heartbeat,” McCurry said. “And we all came together by the grace of God and that’s what we ran with … A lot of it is not just about the child, but the family (and) siblings — teaching them how to treat one another.” ”

Although some may argue that bullying has always been a problem, McCurry said bullying doesn’t stop once you get off the school bus. Today, technology and social media have created a non-stop bullying territory.

“It’s 24/7 for these kids. They just can’t get away from it, which obviously has an even bigger impact on their lives,” she said.

Visit wondermenttherapies.com or bestfriendsnd.org for more information about these services.

Leave a Comment