Parents, new free support group open to Austin middle-schoolers with mental health concerns

#OK2Talk is a support group for teens.

Last fall we wrote about the rate of suicide, specifically among middle school girls. One of the hopes was that our local National Alliance on Mental Illness Austin would be able to start support groups for teens. Now NAMI Austin has one #OK2Talk group up and running at KIPP and is starting another one that is open to any middle-schooler. It’s also free because of funding from the St. David’s Foundation.

Karen Ranus is the executive director of NAMI Austin.

Your teen doesn’t have to be suicidal or even have a diagnosis to sign up. He or she just has to want to talk to other kids who are dealing with some of the same mental health struggles. “We know the need is there,” says Karen Ranus, the executive director of National Alliance on Mental Illness Austin. “This is the perfect age,” she says because often they feel so alone and this is often the time when kids start feeling overwhelmed, increased anxiety and depression. The support group will help them know that there are other kids like them, Ranus says. “It’s a safe space to share their challenges.”

While the support group is not therapy, there will be mental health professionals there who will help teens learn some coping skills. The group meets noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays at the African American Youth Harvest Foundation, 6633 U.S. 290 Frontage Road., Suite 307. It will include pizza or sandwiches as well.

To sign up, download Registration Form  and return it to #OK2Talk program director Jessica Miller at jessica.miller@namiaustin.org. She can also be reached at 512-420-9810 ext. 1003. Have more questions? Call Miller or check out the Frequently Asked Questions on the namiaustin.org site.

Ranus hopes to start a high school group in the fall and bring more support groups to other middle schools.