Hundreds of Bronx Teens Participate in Mental Health & Wellness Event at NYJTL’s Cary Leeds Center

On May 18, 2024, NYJTL hosted an impactful event in partnership with Generation S.O.S. at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Learning. This initiative, part of NYJTL’s Mental Health & Wellness Day, drew hundreds of teens from the Bronx and surrounding areas to participate in a powerful, interactive program aimed at raising awareness and preventing substance misuse and other mental health issues.

Generation S.O.S., a national nonprofit known for its peer-driven approach, presented a program designed to educate and empower youths by sharing personal stories and providing critical information on the importance of maintaining positive mental health. They demonstrated how mental health issues so often lead to substance misuse and addiction.

The event kicked off at 11 a.m., bringing together over 350 teens from NYJTL’s programs. These participants engaged in a wide range of activities, such as creating small canvas paintings, journaling, peer-to-peer discussions, drumming, competitive games, and tennis. The highlight of the event was a talk by a special guest speaker, Arthur, who shared his compelling story of struggling with emotional and mental health issues when he was very young, and how these issues led to substance misuse. Arthur also shared his journey to sobriety, and the coping skills he has learned to help him navigate life’s everyday challenges — emphasizing how his life has never been better.

This event was held in mid-May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, a national observance started in 1949 by Mental Health America to bring attention to the importance of mental wellbeing. Across the country, individuals and organizations step up to raise awareness of, and help address the challenges faced by people living with, mental health conditions. This year’s theme, “Where to Start,” aimed to guide individuals on how to begin taking care of their own wellbeing. Mental health awareness is particularly crucial for youth, as half of all young people will experience a serious mental health challenge, often leading to substance misuse. The focus on substance misuse is so critical because addiction and drug overdose remain the leading cause of death among individuals under 30. This event highlighted the critical need to address these issues early on, ensuring that young people have access to the necessary resources and support. You can read more and access resources through Mental Health America’s website.

Robin Aviv, Founder of Generation S.O.S., stated “We believe that, through the power of peer-to-peer storytelling, kids will learn to identify mental health and emotional challenges (anxiety, depression, bullying, divorce, disordered eating, etc.) and come to understand they are not alone in their feelings. The NYJTL kids heard wonderful coping skills that the young speaker, Arthur, learned on his journey to becoming successful navigating life on life’s terms, without substances. At Generation S.O.S., we are in the prevention space. Our goal is to educate and empower kids with healthy coping methods, so they don’t have to turn to substances as the quick fix. Students invariably tell us our programs are the most impactful experiences they have ever encountered. We have reached over 100,000 teens and young adults through middle schools, high schools, college campuses and other nonprofits, and are thrilled to partner with NYJTL in this endeavor.”

DJ Rouzeau, Chief Program Officer of NYJTL, added, “At NYJTL, we believe in the power of community and education to address the critical issues of substance misuse and other mental health challenges among our youth. Partnering with Generation S.O.S. allows us to provide valuable information and resources while creating a supportive environment where teens can openly discuss their challenges and learn from each other. Through these collaborative efforts, we strive to make a lasting impact on the lives of young people, helping them make informed decisions and build healthier futures.”

Located in one of the nation’s most economically challenged ZIP codes, the Cary Leeds Center provided a fitting backdrop for this event. NYJTL, the largest youth tennis and education nonprofit in the nation, continues to reach over 85,000 K-12 youths across New York City, making a substantial impact through its tennis, education, and life skills programs.

Generation helping teens and young adults make life-saving decisions about substance misuse and other mental health challenges. Last year, Generation S.O.S. reached more than 50,000 teens and young adults with its peer-driven model, which fosters open discussions about substance use and mental health without stigma. This event at the Cary Leeds Center is a testament to the power of community and collaboration in creating positive change.

For more information about Generation S.O.S. and its programs, please visit Generation SOS’s website.

Together, NYJTL and Generation S.O.S. are making strides ensuring that young people have the support and resources they need to make informed decisions and lead healthier lives.