YFS now offers Guiding Good Choices and TakeFiveMI programs

Programs support mental health, decision making and more.

Mercer Island’s Youth and Family Services (YFS) department has added a pair of critical programs to its robust canon of offerings for Island youth and families: Guiding Good Choices and TakeFiveMI.

Through its ongoing partnership with the University of Washington, YFS rolls out this duo of programs through its Healthy Youth Initiative to build skills that support mental health and well-being and help guide behavior and decision making.

Guiding Good Choices is a UW evidence-based program that “aims to help strengthen family bonds, improve parent-child communication, help families better manage conflict and increase the use of guidelines, monitoring and consequences,” according to a city report. Parents and caregivers of sixth-grade students are currently engaged in a five-week virtual program and an additional program is tentatively scheduled for March 2023.

In the TAKE Five realm, high school students age 13 and beyond can access the new free, anonymous online tool — which is a YFS and UW Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors collaboration — by phone, tablet or computer to self-check their mental health and well-being. It is available at https://takefivemi.org and was designed by behavioral health experts in the UW Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences.

Students can peruse the tool’s five sections, which focus on mood and emotions, optimism and social connections, coping with stress, alcohol and marijuana use and non-use and moving forward.

“The tool gives individualized feedback to students and also provides factual information about what other high school students are experiencing to give students perspective,” reads a press release, adding that the tool includes a list of free resources relating to the five sections and agencies specifically serving BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.

Also within the tool are YFS-offered resources, including local school-based counselors, mental health and/or substance use counseling and Healthy Youth Initiative programs.

“Despite far-reaching protective factors, we are seeing the impacts of the national youth mental health crisis in our youth population, which has been exacerbated by the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are fortunate to have an invested parent community and strong partnerships with regional experts and local service providers to elevate and prioritize programs that enhance the well-being of our youth,” said Tambi Cork, YFS administrator.

The two programs are funded by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

For more information, visit https://www.mercerisland.gov/yfs