Forums provide information, support
Cutting. Teen depression and suicide. Eating disorders. Energy drinks.
These are among the numerous topics that have been explored over the years at communitywide forums sponsored at least in part by the Geneva Coalition for Youth.
Sadly, not everyone who can benefit from the information at these forums is getting it. Some people don't attend the forums because of fear they'll be labeled.
"Sometimes parents hesitate to come. They think that if they do, other people will think, 'Oh, your child must have an issue,'" said longtime Coalition member Becky Furnish.
What they don't realize, she said, is "there's a whole community standing behind parents who are suffering."
Other forums have discussed alcohol use, heroin abuse, safety for college-bound students, healthy sexuality, abusive relationships, the world of the Internet, helping parents stand together and not host parties at which alcohol will be served, mistakes even good parents make, setting boundaries and parties.
Besides providing useful information, not to mention resources parents can tap for more data and help, the forums also offer parents a way to broach sensitive topics with their teens.
"It provides a foundation for discussion," said Furnish. "It helps provide a way to open the conversation."
A woman came up to O'Halloran recently, talking about having attending a forum more than a decade ago that directly affected the family's life.
"She said, 'You don't know me, but you had this panel...'" O'Halloran said. And as a direct result of that forum, they got help for their daughter.
"We don't know who, what where or when. But from feedback we know it's working," O'Halloran said. "That's why we need an entire community working on this."
"If one child benefits from this, it's been a good thing."
The coalition is in the process of scheduling a forum for the spring. Visit genevacoalitionforyouth.org to check for upcoming events.