*For Immediate Release*
Mississippi Youth on Path to Promising Futures with Healthy Teen Rallies
Mississippi is known for warm Southern hospitality, a generous spirit of service from our citizens and delectable comfort foods. Even with those wonderful attributes of our state, we are faced with the reality and sobering statistics that plague our state’s youth and next generation of Mississippians. Teen suicides, pregnancy, cyberbullying, and addictions are all part of the reality of this generation of Mississippi’s youth. As a call to action to equip and empower Mississippi’s teens to make healthy choices and overcome adversity, Families First for Mississippi along with Governor Phil Bryant’s office, Mississippi State Department of Health, and Mississippi Department of Human Services host annual Healthy Teens Rallies in Mississippi.
Families First for Mississippi is expanding the Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi program to reach junior high and high school students throughout Mississippi. The 2018 Healthy Teens Rally will be held on Thursday, October 18, 2018, from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., at the Reed Green Coliseum on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg and also on February 28, 2019, from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., at Washington County Convention Center in Greenville, Mississippi.
“The Healthy Teens Rally is an event that brings in talented speakers from across the state that will deliver messages on important issues in teen development from making positive goals in your life, suicide awareness, drinking and driving, positive peer pressure and so many different areas. The speakers are really inspirational and motivational for students, teachers and parents to hear and all share their message with the goal to help kids across the state to make good decisions in their lives,” said Liz Ketchum, State Director for Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi.
During the informative rallies with dynamic speakers and highly interactive and informational booths, 7th - 12th grade students will learn the importance of making healthy life choices as well as ways to become positive role models for their peers.
"The Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi initiative is a great platform that allows students to have a leading voice in implementing solutions to the many challenges teens face today. Healthy Teen Rallies bring together students from throughout the state to take part in a half day energetic and informative event specifically tailored to inspire them to make positive choices and lead their peers to do the same. Investment in Mississippi teens is an investment in a better Mississippi,” stated Elisha Barnes-Booth, Coordinator for the Hattiesburg Families First Center & South Mississippi Healthy Teens.
In a generation saturated with social media, Mississippi teens are faced with bullying that doesn’t stop when they leave their school’s classrooms. Cyberbullying targets vulnerable and already self-conscious teens as hurtful words and messages fill Facebook timelines, Instagram feeds and Snapchat stories and videos. With the dominance of social media driven cyberbullying, Families First for Mississippi along with Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi program will teach teens at the rallies with messages on how their words and actions can have long-lasting effects and consequences that are etched online for all peers to see.
With suicide being the third leading cause of death for 10-year-olds to 24-year-olds in Mississippi, Families First for Mississippi and Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi program strives to inspire Mississippi’s youth to be a positive beacon of hope to their peers with their words and actions to show there is a community who cares for those suffering from depression or peer-driven bullying.
A dynamic, key speaker at the Healthy Teens Rallies is Jody Dyess, Executive Director of Say Something School Assemblies & FREE International Director of Student Outreach, Awareness & Training. He shares a personal testimony of the cruel and life-changing effects of cyberbullying and speaks to the hearts of students seated throughout the rally. “In today’s technological world, a person can create fake accounts and hide behind a keyboard and keep the attacks coming in the privacy of your home. A student that is cyberbullied cannot run from it. There is no safe place, and there in no real line in the sand depicting bullying or being mean. We see bullying as initially trying to make someone’s life miserable and/or encouraging them to harm themselves,” Jody Dyess said.
The cruel and taunting messages that Jody’s daughter received from peers as she was cyberbullied led her to try to commit suicide. “After she tried to commit suicide, it was a long process of healing. In fact, at 24 years old now, we still see the effect emotionally from this event in our family. Though there are no outward scars, the emotional scars are still there and she still suffers from self-image issues and relationship issues. We are glad that even though we have walked through this time in our lives, we have shared her story to over 150,000 students around the nation to help them speak up and say something about what is happening to them or their peers,” Jody Dyess said.
Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi program and Families First for Mississippi chose to utilize social media in a positive way to reach this social savvy generation.
A Healthy Teen app was launched in the March 2018 as a valuable tool to get streamlined, technology friendly, relevant messages to Mississippi teens. “Healthy Teens app is a comprehensive app on topics that affect youth development. One thing we have heard is that not only is the information great for teens, but it is great for parents as well. It is a great app for everyone,” said Liz Ketchum, State Director for Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi.
With videos and engaging blogs on the Healthy Teen app, Mississippi teens have a free resource that is readily accessible to find issues about lifestyle choices on sleep, exercise, diet and suicide, depression, peer pressure, sexual risk avoidance and easy to access hotlines for domestic violence, eating disorders, mental health issues and other areas that a teen may be afraid to reach out to receive professional advice or help.
As Families First for Mississippi expands on Governor Phil Bryant’s Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi initiative, we look with optimism to a future of hope for the next generation of Mississippi’s leaders by nurturing today’s teens and students. Staff and volunteers with Families First for Mississippi along with Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi, Mississippi State Department of Health, and Mississippi Department of Human Services partner together with the mission to be a community of loyal supporters that will tirelessly work to create a path for a bright and promising future for all Mississippi’s youth. ~
With the staggering statistics and heart-wrenching challenges that face this generation of Mississippi’s teens, the reality of action with a plan and purpose for healthy futures is at the heart of the mission of Families First for Mississippi. “We want to equip our youth with the tools they need to make positive choices, so they can live long, healthy lives. We need more advocates, like Families First for Mississippi, supporting our initiative to help teens stay in school and lead successful careers. This partnership is key to building a better future for the next generation of state leaders,” First Lady Deborah Bryant stated.