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World Teen Mental Wellness Day

Written by therapy intern, Nicole Murray



Adolescence is hard.


Nicole and Mack

It’s a period of development when individuals experience dramatic changes in the body and brain to prepare them for survival in adulthood—a time when individuals seek independence from their parents, prioritize acceptance by their peers, and take risks necessary for social-emotional growth and learning. It is a challenging and confusing time for everyone, and for teens these days, many would say adolescence is even harder than ever. Not only are teens navigating the typical challenges of exploring and discovering their identity as a person in the world, but they are also growing up during the Information Age—a leap in globalization and technology humanity hasn’t seen before. Exposure to social media, as well as the complex impacts of living through Covid, global civil unrest, and a loneliness epidemic, are taking a toll on our youth’s mental health and well-being, and they need our help.


March 2nd is World Teen Mental Wellness Day and since we prioritize mental health and relational connection here at Medicine Horse, we wanted to share how we support teens in our community to connect with themselves, each other, the animals, and the natural world at the ranch. 



Animals have a special way of offering an accepting presence which can feel refreshing and unique for teens who tend to be very aware of how they are being received by others. Our animal partners at Medicine Horse include horses large and small, mini donkeys, goats, sheep, and our two barn cats Loki & Butterscotch who often serve as welcoming committee and are very popular among our younger visitors. During our teen peer support groups, teens have an opportunity to build relationships with each other and the animals, often learning about themselves along the way. Understanding the importance of peer connection and mental health support for teens, we have expanded our teen programming for 2024 including groups for HS-aged teens, LGBTQIA+ youth, and teens in recovery from substance use and/or trauma. Our teen groups meet for 2 hours per week for 6 weeks and are designed to allow teens as much choice as possible in how they show up and how they participate, which often provides much-needed relief for teens under pressure in a busy world.


As a therapy intern at Medicine Horse, I have had the privilege of witnessing the beauty of connection that happens during teen peer support groups when animals and nature are included in the experience. When teens get around the animals, they tend to slow down, come into the present moment, and relax into relationship. Our therapists tailor each group to the participants’ needs and invite opportunities for improving awareness of self and others. As the weeks progress and participants learn more about themselves and each other, teens often engage in fun and sometimes deep conversations together in a space where they get to lean into being themselves, just as they are. And just as no teen is the same, each group is unique and special. I get so much joy in being a part of providing space for teens to connect with each other and make memories with the animals out here at Medicine Horse. 


 

If you love a teenager and would like to learn more about what Medicine Horse has to offer, please check out our Signature Group link on our website for more information about how to sign up and which group might be a good fit for your teen: https://www.medicinehorse.org/programs.


We also offer individual and family therapy services for people of all ages; you can find more information about individual therapy here: https://www.medicinehorse.org/individual-therapy


All of the signature groups are offered at no cost to participants thanks to our generous donors, community partners, and grant funding. If you would like to make a donation, sponsor one of the Medicine Horse animals, or learn other ways you can support the important work we do here at Medicine Horse, please visit our donation page: https://www.medicinehorse.org/donate.


Thank you for being a part of our community and if you’re an adult reading this, remember, we were all teenagers once, try to be the adult you needed then for the teens in your life now, and be gentle with each other in a complex world.



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