South Carolina takes message to teens

Seeing a dearth of ways to reach teenagers about mental health issues, South Carolina has set up a Web site that promises to deliver "matters that matter to teens" in a way that relates more directly to them than other so-called teen health sites.

The "Teen Matters' Web site (www.teen-matters.com), hosted by five students at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, uses video and graphics to provide teens with information on such topics as suicide, body image, bullies, rape, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Such a site was needed because, although teenagers are told all the time to talk to someone if they have problems, they rarely do, said Susan Craft, assistant director of communications for the South Carolina Department of Mental Health. With the emerging Internet culture, however, teens might be more willing to go to the Internet to seek information and help, she said.

And despite a plethora of sites that focus on teen issues, few address the teens themselves, Craft said.

"I went to about 500 sites that said they were for teens, to check them out," she said. "But they were mostly for parents or counselors, and only a very few made any attempt to reach out to the teens directly."

The site officially launched May 7. Craft said her department will visit schools around the state in the fall to encourage them to link the Teen Matters site with their own school sites. Then the program will be reviewed early next year to analyze attendance and use, and to see if other features such as chat rooms should be added to the Web site.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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