TreeHouse Targets Struggling Teens to Help Create Healthy Hearts, Minds
safe spaces help teens build relationships and resilience when faced with daunting mental health decline
The mental health crisis in teenagers and young adults has persisted with depression and anxiety on the rise: in 2018, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 31% of high school students felt “hopeless” for more than two weeks in a row. Since the pandemic, as shown in a recent 2022 report, that number has increased to 44%. A local nonprofit organization, TreeHouse, is undergoing a rebranding from Tandem Mentorship to lean into the statistics and make a difference in young people’s lives.
And this mentorship program is needed now more than ever before.
TreeHouse’s mission is to end hopelessness in teen populations in the Valley. “(We think of hopelessness as) a knot that forms inside each person made up of pain, depression, harmful behaviors, and destructive patterns,” said TJ Gouker, area director at TreeHouse. “We have common sayings that we use to address and bring healing to this hopelessness. These sayings are: I am lovable, capable and worthwhile; I am loved without strings and never alone; I have a future.” These powerful words rebuild a relationship between self-identity and worth.
The organization has five major initiatives: Support Group, Connect, Mentoring, Next, and Growth Groups. “All of our programs are trauma-informed and all of our volunteers are trauma-informed trained,” Gouker said. “We focus heavily on mental health.”
All of our programs are trauma-informed and all of our volunteers are trauma-informed trained.
We focus heavily on mental health.
TreeHouse Area Director
“Support Group” is a space for teens to speak freely about their emotions felt recently while supported by others in the group. “Connect” brings the Bible into play where teens look at Jesus’s story to identify areas of loss, pain, and hopelessness as well as love, light, and community. “Mentoring” allows a student and an adult to work together one-on-one to create a consistent relationship rooted in growth and care.
“Next” is a program specifically designed to help teens gain experience for college applications, vocational career steps, and even job interview preparations. Lastly, “Growth Groups,” Gouker said, “dig into a topic or skill that’s relevant to the group members — like music, dance, leadership, self-hard, forgiveness — and create a space for discussion and learning.”
With 30 active teens in the organization, the group runs on Tuesdays from 5-7pm at Renew Church in Eau Claire.
“There is a balance of structures, resource-filled activities, and unstructured, play-filled activities,” Gouker emphasized. “Creating a safe space in our programming for that balance to work itself out has been key to successful relationships.”
There is never a shortage of helpful people and worthwhile connections. TreeHouse is a program designed to show that to teens who have lost hope of finding genuine hope. Fighting hopelessness in the Valley isn’t easy, but it’s always worth finding hope again.