REDgen is a community organization that was formed after several suicides in the area in the summer of 2013. The organization’s goal is raising money, providing resources on mental health and teen suicide and searching for methods to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
“REDgen’s idea of building resilient teens, families and communities … involves a balanced life of hard work, school and recreation,” said Mike Matthias, Senior Counselor at UWM.
REDgen holds a variety of events about once every month. On August 16, REDgen held an interactive discussion called the Transition Years: Understanding the Vulnerability in Our Youth. This seminar, hosted by psychiatrist Barbara Hale-Richlen, discussed the transitioning times in a child’s life that can expose them to different mental health issues. This event allowed parents to talk about their own experiences and ask experts their pressing questions.
A REDgen book club was held on August 24, discussing the book Letting Go with Love and Confidence by Kenneth Ginsburg. The book addresses when and how parents should deal with a variety of situations in their adolescent child’s life.
“This book draws on the latest findings on adolescent behavior and parenting, including my own research on teens,” Ginsburg said.
On September 15, REDgen held a film screening of Race to Nowhere at Whitefish Bay High School. The film was about the pressure to succeed felt by today’s youth and followed students who were affected by stress. This caused students to experience anxiety, physical illness, and urge to cheat and not to get enough sleep. In extreme cases students developed eating disorders and eventually committed suicide.
“There is almost no correlation … between academic achievements and homework,” Race to Nowhere explained.
Along with the pressure to complete homework, the film said that students feel pressured to get into a good college. This causes many students to have tight schedule of schoolwork, AP and honors classes, sports, clubs and volunteering.
“Now, being a senior and having to do college applications … they expect you to do extracurricular and hard classes. They say they really want you to push yourself. I feel a lot of pressure from all these things I am expected to do,” said Shayna Moss, senior.
A panel of discussion followed the film, consisting of Dr. Michael Jorn, Shorewood Psychologist; Matthias; Connie Bennett, Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions at Marquette University; Bill Henkle, Whitefish Bay High School Principal; and Tawney Latona, Admissions Counselor at UWM. This panel explored possible solutions to this problem in schools in the area. One solution they discussed was encouraging g students to take the classes they think they will enjoy instead of taking the most difficult classes possible. Another thing the panel suggested to students was to research what their perspective college’s expectations are. The panel explained how these requirements are different depending on the school, and many colleges’ expectations may not be as high as the students had imagined.
The next REDgen event will be a seminar on Octover 22 at 7 p.m. Ginsberg will speak about Fostering Resilience: Building Resilience in Children and Teens at Nicolet High School.
by Madeline Wilson