My name is Jenah Cason and I currently live in Columbia, SC.
I am the Executive Director of the Federation of Families of SC. We provide leadership in the area of children’s mental health through education, awareness, support and advocacy to families of children who emotional, mental, substance use and behavioral disorders. I was brought to this work by my lived experience with mental health challenges.
An accomplishment I’m proud of is the Youth Lens Project, an initiative that grew out of a Photovoice Project conducted by Youth MOVE SC that was adapted for a national scale with support from the Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland and the IDEA Partnership. The project uses the power of photography as a means for young people to express what they know and experience about stigma and isolation.
The most critical component of youth and young adult leadership, in my experience, is to truly listen and respond to their ideas, experiences, thoughts and concerns. I have experienced the ideas of our youth advisory council being shot down, only to see years later that someone not only carried out that idea, but made it a source of sustainability for their organization. Be adventurous. Be honest. Even if it’s a no, explain why. And be willing to have a conversation about it. There is nothing more amazing than youth and young adults who are supported and empowered to be leaders in action.