DCSD students address mental health issues at Youth Congress
Written by Castle View sophomore, Adam Bezdek
The Douglas County Youth Congress was an event where students in Douglas County got together to talk about and find solutions to some of the problems that exist today in our school district. I was one of only two Castle View students who attended. We earned community service hours for the day and my mom told me to go because I would learn a lot.
I was put in the sex trafficking group. It was led by a county commissioner and two Douglas County police officers, one who works with the FBI on a project called Innocence Lost.
What we all learned in the group was pretty scary. I never knew that sex trafficking exists right here and my classmates could even be victims. We were told that it’s not like the movie, “Taken” where it shows violence and kidnapping and guns. A lot of it happens when kids are on the Internet and meet people who pose as older teenagers that want to rescue them from their problems.
It made me think more about why my mom watches my social media and tells me not to give too much information or allow people that I don’t know access to my profiles about me. I just thought she was being nosy and overprotective. I see that she knows a lot about these issues.
The officers told us that the average age for kids who are lured by traffickers is between 12-14 years old. And the kids, mostly girls, run away from home and to this person who promises to help them. The kids don’t have any money to live so they are given food, shelter and clothing by this person. Then, if they want to leave, this person threatens them or makes them believe that they need them so that they can’t leave. And so do the other people in the house. They become a really sick family.
So, what we had to do at the Youth Congress was help create solutions to the problems they wanted to be addressed. Our group discovered that many of the problems had a background in mental health issues. But the easiest way for our group to address this was to do an awareness campaign for parents and kids regarding social media and Internet safety.
We all want kids to get along with their families and we all know that sometimes we have issues with our parents and siblings. So, we need to address how families deal with each member. But, we also need to make sure that even if we are not getting along or we are having a hard time, that social media and strangers don’t become the person we go to for help, thinking they can solve our problems. And we certainly don’t allow them into our lives to threaten us.