Mental Health Awareness Month spotlight: New group forming to support tween girls

Teens looking at phone

By Leah Persky, PhD & CFLE • Manager of Family Life Education

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and no doubt, you have seen the news from the past months highlighting the many mental health challenges teens are facing today. Between the pandemic, increased social media use, general neglect of teen mental wellbeing, and increased feelings of isolation, tween and teen girls are experiencing an increasing number of mental health challenges.

Kathleen Ethier, director of the CDC’s adolescent and school health division stated that in 30 years of collecting similar data, “we’ve never seen this kind of devastating, consistent findings.” Increased rates of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide have grown significantly in young girls over the past several years. Boys of the same age do not appear to be experiencing the same level of crisis. Mental Health Awareness Month is the right time to highlight these challenges and begin to explore the ways we can support the wellbeing of adolescents in our lives.

We know the past years have been difficult and our kids are still experiencing the impacts of the years of pandemic life. This generation of teens is also highly engaged in social media and technology. We are learning about the physical and mental health impacts that such intensive social media and screen exposure has on overall health. While it is too complex to identify one simple cause of the mental health crisis that many teens are experiencing today, we know the combination of intensive social media use in combination with other risk factors for mental illness can increase the likelihood of experiencing anxiety, depression and related conditions.

At JFCS, we strive to support the wellbeing of girls and all children – it is central to the core value of JFCS, tikkun olam, repairing the world one person at a time. We also know there are many things we can do to support the teens in our lives. That is why we are creating a new group, Authentic Me, which will provide a supportive space for kids to learn healthy coping skills, connect with others, learn more about themselves and find their voice. This new group is open to those who identify as girls ages 10-13. The class will meet for one hour, once per week, for 6 weeks.

Authentic Me will be facilitated by Amy Summers (Paster), an experienced parent and adolescent coach. Amy’s practice is centered around fostering valuable skills at school, at home, with yourself, and in relationships. Amy is knowledgeable in a myriad of therapeutic modalities and believes in a whole child approach.

We asked Amy a few questions about the group and the why it was created:

Why do you think a group like this is needed for this age group?

Amy: It is a challenging and overwhelming time for tween and teenage girls. Girls today are facing many more roadblocks in their development than in the past. Social media has become a playground for bullying, blackmail, and insecurity. Girls are struggling with self-trust and are often choosing to please others over their own needs. These actions can set up unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact their mental wellbeing and self-esteem. I have worked with many kids this age and know that creating a safe space to talk about emotions, connect and be understood by others is important. It can be a challenge to create this in school and other environments.

Why should a parent consider enrolling their child in this group? Who is this group a good fit for?

If you feel that your child is struggling with boundaries, has a hard time saying no to their peers, is overly focused on social media, people pleasing, or experiences challenges around their emotional/social development, this is the group for your daughter! Girls will learn how to connect with themselves and identify small and large goals. They will learn to use their voice to honor their needs and create self-trust.

What kinds of activities will you do each week?

We will role play, journal, and play a variety of social and emotional development games. Girls will learn a variety of new coping skills that they can bring with them into their everyday activities and routines.

Parents will meet with Amy before and after the class to receive an overview of the work we will do and have an opportunity to provide feedback. We will meet in person at JFCS in Golden Valley. The cost is $129 for the 6-week session, with a sliding scale available. 

We plan to start the class in late summer or early fall. Please email Leah Persky at or call her at 952-542-4825, to let us know of your interest in the class. Also reach out with any questions. We will need a group of five-to-six kids to launch the program. We also hope to be able to offer similar classes in the future for boys and members of the LGBTQ+ community.