Grassroots programs, communities come together to fight for mental health


“It takes a whole village to raise a child.” This African proverb exemplifies the importance of a community to prevent violence and mental illness. Poverty, mental illness, domestic violence and gang crimes all have one thing in common: They are overlooked and their solutions are underfunded, resulting in worsening problems for America’s youth. Many parents are fearful to let their children play in the yard without adult supervision, which was a normal daily activity around 20 years ago. America’s neighborhoods, schools and communities have been riddled with danger and crime.

Staying within the community

Instead of looking for help at a state or national level, many have found help and support in their own backyard. Community grassroots programs such as Homeboy Industries, which is a famous Los Angeles institution that has been around since 1988, may be the key to restoring communities. Homeboy Industries was started by a priest in the height of L.A.’s gang wars to stop gang violence, provide job counseling and tutoring. Today, the organization also provides mental health services. Grassroots community organizations like this can help stop and prevent crime from occurring faster than most national programs, because people can stay in their own neighborhood and fight these battles together. Promoting campaigns against gang violence and drug abuse in local schools is another way to help restore the community.

The importance of leader participation

Volunteering at the local homeless shelters, churches, after-school programs and community outreach centers are ways to build a close-knit community and help youth stay out of trouble. Chicago’s South Side was one of the most gang-riddled areas in the United States, but the city has worked incredibly hard to initiate and build the Gang Violence Reduction Program (GVRP). The program enables Chicago police officers, teachers, neighbors, churches, probation officers and former gang members to come together to fight against gang violence. This program has been ongoing for years, and has slowed the number of gang violence incidences and has brought community workers together. Servicemen and servicewomen such as police officers and firefighters are leaders in the community and it helps for them to be present in community-based projects and meetings.

Mobile outreach programs

Other programs such as Meals on Wheels and #HashtagLunchbag are outreach programs that travel to local communities to hand out meals to the homeless populations. Mobile mental health clinics are slowly popping up in cities throughout the country. This allows mental health workers to go out into the communities so people who do not have transportation can seek help.

We need to work harder within our communities to stop the violence, and prevent and treat mental illness. After all, it does take a village to raise a child.

If you know an adolescent boy who is struggling with violence or a mental health disorder, White River Academy may be able to help. For more information contact 866-520-0905.

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