MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Great Lakes Recovery Centers (GLRC) announced a partnership with the Youth Mental Health Project (YMHP), a nationwide nonprofit organization that aims to educate, empower, and support families and communities to better understand and care for the mental health of youth. Now we’re learning more about the resources that YMHP provides to communities in the Upper Peninsula.

The partnership allows GLRC to facilitate a group meeting program for parents and caretakers of youth in the Upper Peninsula.

On Wednesday, we spoke with Valerie Barton, Executive Director of Youth Mental Health Parnership. We first learned more about the organization. Barton said YMHP focuses on adults in kids lives. Their goal is to equip parents and caregivers with the vocabulary, understanding, and mental health-self awareness to create a safe for children and parents.

“Our view is that you can talk to therapists, you can talk to teachers, whomever, but you know your child better than anyone. You live with them all the time, you know, their moods. And so for us, we have educational resources. On our website, we have educational webinars, we do speaking engagements, and we have our parent support network, which is the support groups that we run, but it all is in the spirit of take what is helpful and applicable to the unique circumstances of your child. And hopefully we can give you some information to equip you,” said Barton.

Support groups for parents in Michigan are the third Wednesday of every month from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. The meetings are currently virtual.

“So people can go to our website and login and really talk about their experiences there. It is a no judgment zone. It’s around parents and it’s strictly confidential and free. Parents can go and they can talk to other parents who are going through the same things.” Barton continued, “You know, parents with kids who are just maybe struggling a little bit with the parents maybe aren’t sure is this something I need to be concerned about? All the way up to parents who are trying to steer their kids through an acute crisis. So it has a range of parents and we have our facilitators. It’s peer to peer so these are these are parents leading the meetings who actually understand what it’s like to walk in parents shoes.”

Barton said she has a child who struggles with mental health and spoke to how these groups provide a sense of community.

“So when you’re struggling, you feel like it’s this thing that you are going through alone and it’s so overwhelming and it’s so isolating and you feel so judged by other parents, and other adults and coaches anyone who interacts with your child. And it is very, very difficult because you’re doing the very best you can doing everything you can to help your child and it’s heartbreaking when they’re still struggling. So going to a meeting, the comments that we get from parents and caregivers are, oh, I don’t feel alone anymore. I found my people. I found people who understand how hard this is. This unique difficulty that feels makes me feel alone and how people have this experience,” said Barton.

When it comes to the subject of social media, Barton said a question often comes up of whether children and teens should be off of social media entirely.

“I do think as parents of adolescents, it’s certainly within within your right as their parent or their caregiver who’s responsible for them to check in on their online habits to check in on their social media habits. And just to kind of help you know, kids, teenagers are gonna make mistakes in life. And it’s really important that that you know, when they make a mistake online, and things get very difficult, that they know that you know, a that you’re sort of aware maybe that they might be going down a certain direction. And the other is to just sort of let them know that no matter what happens, you will help them sort it out. “

YMHP is planning an educational webinar in July with a focus on grief after suicide. The date for the webinar has not yet been set.