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Amid teen mental health crisis, north Charlotte nonprofit is making a difference

Youth Villages touts an 80% success rate in working with struggling teenagers and their families

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Two years ago, Tiphanie Martin felt helpless.  

Her daughter Kiana was struggling with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder. Martin had taken her to an inpatient facility and an outpatient facility, with little success. The Concord mother worried she would lose her daughter.

"I thought I was gonna bury her," Martin said. "She was lost. Confused."

Kiana wasn't alone. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says teen mental health is a crisis, with 57% of teenage girls reporting feeling "persistently sad or hopeless." That number is a 10-year high. 

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Frustrated and hopeless, Martin reached out to Youth Villages, a Charlotte nonprofit that works with children who are struggling emotionally. Equally important, Youth Villages works with the families of those children to ensure they receive the best care possible. 

"Kiana has done a complete 180," Martin said.   

A team of 20 counselors works out of a nondescript office in north Charlotte, helping families in need who live in Charlotte and surrounding counties. 

"They're out in some of the most rural areas, and they're in some of the most inner parts of the city," Erica Ellis, a development director for Youth Villages, said. 

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The nonprofit prides itself in a holistic approach that works with teenagers, their families and their schools, and touts an 80% success rate. The families are often struggling through a divorce, job loss or abuse. 

"We're going to the school meetings. We're going to court," Gwendolyn Prince said. "We're making it so our families have a voice and are able to use it."

Martin said her daughter was skeptical in the beginning but has made incredible progress.

"I don't have the amount of words to thank Youth Villages on what they have done for all of us," Martin said.

If you or a loved one are facing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there is help readily available. You can call Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat with them online. There are also resources in North Carolina available here and in South Carolina available here.

Contact Ben Thompson at bthompson@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

WCNC Charlotte is committed to reporting on the issues facing the communities we serve. We tell the stories of people working to solve persistent social problems. We examine how problems can be solved or addressed to improve the quality of life and make a positive difference. WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions for you. Send your tips or questions to newstips@wcnc.com.

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