Pawnee Mental Health opens teen center

Julianna Poe, Trending Editor

In light of rising mental health awareness, Pawnee Mental Health recently announced the opening of a new teen center at the Pawnee Mental Health Services building on Hayes Drive.

“We really want to help decrease the stigma that surrounds mental health,” said Gabrielle Mayers, a youth group coordinator at Pawnee Mental Health. “We’re hoping that with Pawnee, as a mental health center, opening this up to the community, [people will] feel more comfortable with addressing mental health with themselves and others.”

According to Mayers, discussions surrounding a teen center were occurring before she brought it up to her supervisor Terra Upham and director Shelli Schottler. From there, visions quickly turned into a reality. 

“When I was in middle school and high school, my community had a little teen center that was chaperoned by parents,” Mayers said. “I wanted a place for all teens in the community, not just Pawnee youth, to come to.”

Besides bringing attention to mental health, the overall goal of the teen center is to provide students with a safe environment to hang out, meet new people and ask questions.

“We have a few different goals for the teen center,” Mayers said. “The main thing is to have a safe place for the youth in our community and for Pawnee youth to come in, hang out, have a good time, especially since there’s so many limited options right now due to COVID.”

There are several different activities available for youth at the teen center, including arts and crafts, movies, board games and even a quiet room to read. A family-friendly, gaming console is also in the works.

“There’s a bunch of different things … going on to … speak to different individuals and their personalities and their interests,” Mayers said. “That way people with different interests can find something that they like to do there with their friends.”

According to Mayers, one of the most important takeaways from this teen center is that “everyone can … benefit from asking questions.”

“I want them to know that it’s a nonjudgmental place,” Mayers said. “You can come and you can be who you are … It’s okay to ask questions about mental health and to even get help when it comes to mental health.”

Starting next month, the teen center will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. on the first Friday every month. Registration for the event can be found on their website and is $2 per visit. In the future, Pawnee hopes to host more sessions each month.

“I think my favorite aspect of the teen center is it’s not just for Pawnee youth, it’s for all the teens 13 to 18 in the community to come and learn what we do here at Pawnee and [to] just have a safe place to hang out with each other,” Mayers said. “If you’re someone like me that struggles with meeting new people, this is a safe environment and hopefully a comfortable environment to do that.”