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Mental Health Awareness Month: After-school program provides sanctuary for teens

At Tyler's House in Kansas City, Missouri, teens can be part of volunteer-led activities or just be in a space where they feel seen and heard.
Alastor Reynolds
Posted at 8:57 AM, May 07, 2024

Missouri high school freshman Alastor Reynolds said the mental health of his peers is "very not OK."

"I know multiple people and have multiple friends that are struggling right now," he said. "And they just can’t really get the help they need."

But Tyler's House KC in Kansas City, Missouri, is working to make a difference. Alastor said it is a place where he feels safe and feels like he belongs.

The teen wants to inform the surrounding community of the positive impact such places have on teen mental health.

“I mean, high school is a lot,” Alastor said. “There’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of drama, there’s a lot of new things going on.”

When there was no school to keep him busy, he started spending time at Tyler's House.

“I kind of realized it’s so fun here," Alastor said. "Sometimes I'd have a really stressful day and need to relax."

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During his relaxation, he's surrounded by others like Cori Hastings, a former teacher who founded Tyler's House.

“I used to work at a local high school here and was just noticing a lot of students falling through the cracks,” Hastings said. “There was just not enough time to really target the needs of the students.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) surveyed teens about their mental health, and only half of them said they believe mental health is important to their school.

“We’re just trying to reach them however we need to, with the overall thing being all of this is connection, belonging, and it supports our mental health,” Hastings said.

High schoolers are welcome at Tyler's House on weekdays after school. They can be part of volunteer-led activities or just be in a space where they feel seen and heard.

“It’s a very welcoming environment. I’m very comfortable here," Alastor said. "Not just because I've been here a lot but because the people here, students and volunteers, are easy to talk to, and you can just relate to them with so many other things."

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Alastor said he wishes schools had safe spaces like this. NAMI reported that 2 in 3 teens agree schools should teach what mental health is and how to find treatment.

Scripps News Kansas City's Olivia Acree asked Alastor what he'd do without Tyler's House.

“I don’t really know what I'd do, honestly,” he said.

He encourages teens who feel the same way to stop by.

“If you’re in high school, come to Tyler's House. We would love to have you,” Alastor said.