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Newsletter – December 2021


The U.S. surgeon general did not mince words. “Mental health challenges in children,
adolescents, and young adults are real, and they are widespread. But most importantly, they are
treatable, and often preventable,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy wrote in a 53-page
advisory published on December 7.

In the past year, suicide attempts rose 51 percent across the nation for adolescent girls, while 25
percent of youth experienced depression, and 20 percent suffered from anxiety. The report makes
clear that it’s not just the pandemic impacting our youth, it’s also the increase in gun violence,
fears of global warming, the deep political divisions, and racial justice issues that have
profoundly impacted the mental health of young Americans. The report documents that the
demand for mental health services has seriously strained the capacity of providers to respond to
the crisis.

Youth Crossroads counseling staff and interns have seen a dramatic increase in high school and
middle school students wanting to access mental health services. “We are seeing an
extraordinary number of young people in our service area who are suffering from serious mental
health challenges beyond the typical stress, anxiety and depression we normally see,” said
Michael Desideri, Director of Counseling Services at Youth Crossroads. “A lot of the teens have
no semblance of a normal life. They are lonely, they’ve lost emotional intimacy, they lack
motivation, and have little to hope for their future. We see an increase in substance abuse, violent
behaviors, and suicidal thoughts, and more than 40 percent of the students we surveyed show
serious signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” Michelle said.

Even worse still is the fact that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. “YC Counselors are
currently working in 7 local school buildings, and we currently have wait lists for students
needing services at 4 of them. Additionally, we currently do not have YC Counselors at Unity
Junior High in Cicero, the largest middle school in the state. The mental health needs of so many
students are not being met. And we are not the only ones seeing this. Many other mental health
providers in the area also have six month or longer waiting lists. Youth and their families need
help now,” Michelle said.

Youth Leadership Students Distribute Food at Post Thanksgiving Food Pantry

High School Students in Youth Crossroads’ Youth Leadership Program (YLP) were on the frontlines of a food pantry held at Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church in Berwyn on Friday, November 26.YLP uses community service projects to build student’s capacity for self-reliance, self-sacrifice, social responsibility, and mentorship. “It’s empowering for students to develop the skills they need to serve their community, says Briani Shorter, Youth Development Director. “They discover they can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Handle with Care Program

The Youth Crossroads Handle with Care Program works to provide increased support to youth at school. The program serves youth who experience trauma that includes police involvement. Responding officers provide Youth Crossroads with the youth’s name and we contact the appropriate school asking them to handle the youth with care. Notifying teachers and staff to handle a student with care allows them to grant more support and understanding to the student. The Handle with Care program collaborates with the Berwyn and Cicero police departments as well as with over 30 local schools. “It’s one of the best partnerships I have ever seen in public education for student’s well-being.” -Michael McGreevy, Assistant Principal of Student Services at Morton West High School.

Pride Group Curriculum Introduced

Youth Crossroads has begun implementing a ‘PRIDE’ group curriculum at Morton District 201 high schools. The group is focused on working with LGBTQ+ youth of all gender identities and sexual orientations to provide a safe and supportive environment. The group is facilitated by Youth Crossroads counselors and a school faculty member to work with students to ensure that they feel heard and supported at school. LGBTQ+ youth can face marginalization and exclusion in school, at home, and in their community. Group topics include exploring personal choices, one’s identity with culture, self-acceptance, and healthy relationships. The group has been an important addition to Youth Crossroads services to bring students together to explore their identities and advocating for themselves and others in the LGBTQ+ community. 

Students in MAS Group Make Progress

Students participating in the Morton Alternative School (MAS) Boys Groups Counseling Program have shown amazing progress this semester, according to school-based counselor Natalie Palm. “The young men in these groups were initially hesitant to share their ideas and engage with others. Over time, these groups have created a comfortable space for the youth to share opinions and challenge each other’s thinking.” Topics covered by these groups this semester include gender roles, healthy relationships, and societal expectations of young men. The youth have actively participated in a variety of activity and thought provoking conversation.

Walgreens Cash Rewards Program Can Benefit Youth Crossroads

In an effort to advance the health and well-being of communities across the U.S., Walgreens has unveiled a new myWalgreens donation feature*, which allows myWalgreens members to donate Walgreens Cash rewards directly to local nonprofits in their community via or the myWalgreens app. To make a donation to Youth Crossroads, myWalgreens members can visit and log in to their account. Customers that are not currently myWalgreens members but wish to join may visit the same link for more information.

YC Hosts Dec. 18 Vaccination Event

Youth Crossroads is hosting a family vaccination event on Saturday, December 18, 9:30-12:30 p.m. at Youth Crossroads, 6501 Stanley Ave. Anyone 12 and older can get the 1st or 2nd dose of Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J vaccines. Anyone 18 and older can get the Pfizer booster if they got their 2nd shot on or before June 18. Visit to register. And while you’re there, purchase bake goods to support the One-Step Ahead Scholarship.