Supporting Youth Mental Health Care in the Community

By Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation

This January the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation is pleased to welcome Boys & Girls Club of Stamford to our Grantee Blog. Open daily in Stamford, Connecticut and serving more than 1,600 children, its dedicated youth facility offers programs and services to inspire confidence and a sense of competence, usefulness, and belonging.

Courtesy of Boys & Girls Club of Stamford

This country is currently facing a youth mental health crisis. More than a third of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, while almost half reported feeling persist sadness or hopelessness during the past year. More than half reported they experienced emotional abuse by a parent or older adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting, or putting the student down. Though the pandemic is getting further in our collective rearview mirror, the issue does not seem to be improving. Girls and LGBTQ+ students are faring even worse with large percentage increases in the number of young people who have seriously considered attempting suicide. This is not an issue that is unique to high school students. Elementary and middle school students are experiencing higher levels of depression and anxiety. Many of these issues were exacerbated by the isolation caused by the pandemic (CDC, 2023).

Conventional thinking places the burden of supporting our young people on school systems and traditional mental health providers. Here at Boys and Girls Club of Stamford (BGCS), we view it differently and see a community-wide issue to solve. Over 500 K-12 students attend BGCS daily in an after-school and summer school setting, so we take responsibility for being part of the solution. While we understand that we are neither a school system that employs social workers, nor a traditional mental health provider, we do believe that we are uniquely equipped to form partnerships, upskill staff, and remove barriers to access. There is little we are prouder of than the trust that youth, parents, and our community place in us. For many young people, we are their consistent support system from kindergarten to high school graduation. It all starts with trust.

As we kick off the new year, we are excited to partner with two local clinical organizations to provide direct service to our youth in one-on-one and group settings. Clinicians from partner organizations will co-locate in our two facilities bringing support directly to the young people who need it most. We are committed to building a trauma-responsive organization; to this end, we are training staff that will help alleviate young people’s exposure to chronic stress and trauma. Lastly, by eliminating the physical trip and the emotional stigma of visiting a clinician’s office, we aim to normalize mental health care and make it more accessible. Layers of support powered by trust may very well be the life changer and sometimes life saver for our youth, their families, and our community.

About Boys & Girls Club of Stamford

The Mission of Boys & Girls Club of Stamford is to enable all youth to reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens. We strive to empower our youth and provide a safe and supportive environment with caring adult professionals and volunteers. We endeavor to achieve our mission by offering facilities, programs, and support systems that assist young people in their academic, social, athletic and cultural pursuits. Our formula for impact focuses on children’s academic success, good character, citizenship and healthy lifestyles. 

Learn more about Boys & Girls Club of Stamford by visiting