Diocese to host mental health program

Catholic youths from Ottumwa pose for a photo at the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis last year. The Diocese of Davenport is hosting a virtual mental health program for youths next month.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Following the 2019 National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis, Don Boucher learned that some youths who attended felt stressed, pressured, struggled with depression and with anxiety and more.

Boucher, the Diocese of Davenport’s director of Faith Formation and coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said he was aware of statistics about youths being stressed out but “it’s easy to distance it from the folks you know.” After reading reflections from teens in this diocese, “‘church kids’ no less, that’s when it hit me.”

Teens are trying to balance school, sports, teenage life and “they need more sleep,” he said. He decided to address these issues with parish leaders, parents and teens and has planned a multi-day program for Mental Illness Awareness Month in October.


COVID-19 restrictions caused him to adapt his original plans for in-person events. Boucher will offer virtual programming for adults who help teens, such as parents, clergy, ministry leaders and teachers. He will also offer a youth night program. The virtual programs will be held Oct. 6, 7 and 9.

Roy Petitfils, a Catholic speaker known throughout the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM) community, will speak Oct. 6 and 7. He has spoken at NCYC several times and in dioceses across the country. “He’s a former youth minister and Catholic school teacher. He is now a clinical counselor at Pax Renewal Center in Lafayette, Louisiana, and values the role that faith plays in the healing process for mental illness,” Boucher said.

The other speaker, Sean Robinson, has worked in the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for 11 years. “During that time he helped to coordinate diocesan-wide summits to address the opioid epidemic, trauma-informed pastoral care in parishes and schools, and suicide prevention/ intervention/post-vention,” Boucher said. Robinson has also chaired the NFCYM Youth on the Margins Project Team in the development of Restoring Mercy and Hope to All Young People; A Process for Developing a Comprehensive Pastoral Plan.

Boucher talked with Petitfils about raising awareness of the signs of mental illness and equipping people to respond to those signs. The Oct. 6 program, “Helping Hurting Teens,” will address anxiety, depression, self-injury, sexual orientation, and suicidal ideation. “These are just a few things ministers, catechists, teachers, parents and others involved in the lives of today’s teens face,” the program description states. “It can be daunting to help teens who are dealing with these issues.” Participants will leave this session “with a better understanding of the issues and a clearer understanding of the critical role they can play in pastorally caring for today’s hurting teens. Clergy and ministry leaders attend virtually from 10-11:30 a.m. and parents and other adults attend from 7-8:30 p.m.

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