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Teen Voice event encourages youth communication with young speaker

February 05, 2014 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

For some teens and young adults, admitting they need help is empowering.

"We may all be broken but we are not alone," Ethan Paschall said during the Teen Voice event at the Kingsbury Court in Canterbury Village earlier this month. "So many people carry around this idea that I'm the only one to ever feel this way, and I'm doing this entirely on my own. If I admit that I'm broken—if I admit that I'm not able to handle this all on my own and there's something wrong with me—that's going to be a problem," he said.

Paschall, a 24-year-old from Sterling Heights spoke at the second annual North Oakland Community Coalition Teen Voice event held at Canterbury Village. The event was designed to help students and others involved in support groups in the community.

Speaking about his own personal struggles, he reached out to teens, many in 9th grade, with openness.

"My struggle in my life is I defined my worth based on the perceptions of everyone around me, and then eventually spiraled out of control to where my entire life was based around relationships. That was what only mattered to me until I eventually ended up in a hospital," he said.

After he got out of the hospital and after acknowledging his need for additional help, Paschall's self perceptions and self worth changed for the better.

"So often we are afraid to actually do that, and make that admittance, and say that, yes we are incredibly broken," he said. "It's ok to say that. It's empowering to be able to say that we aren't able to do this on our own, because everyone around us is in that exact same position. We are just as broken, and we can just work together and move forward."

Paschall is the lead vocalist for the band A Righteous Downfall, which released a new single off their album at the teen event titled "Hollow Ivory."

The band's focus is to give listeners at their shows an opportunity to connect with people who have been to incredibly dark places, and to "really try to use our music to be a light."

"During our set and between our songs I'll talk about where I am in life and things that I've been through, and really invite people to come talk to me afterwards. We've had some incredible conversation with people afterwards just who have been able to say that they've been in those places that I have."

Representatives from multiple support groups attended the event, including the Lake Orion High School's Students Offering Support (SOS) and Teens in Action groups, along with members from the Oakland County Health Department and Common Ground. The Teen Voice event was sponsored by the Teens in Action group.

Director of North Oakland Community Coalition Julie Brenner wishes she had the answers to why teens turn to suicide, and other unhealthy mental behaviors.

"I think that the pressure to be successful is really strong, and a lot more so then when I was younger," she said. "That might be part of it. We don't have answers for that yet and were trying to figure it out.

"That's why it's really important to listen to what youth are saying and that's why it's so important to integrate them into our (coalition) programs because their voice is the strongest," she said.

The North Oakland Community Coalition is a Lake Orion prevention coalition that provides educational programs on mental health, underage drinking and substance abuse along with other programs.

"We are a community mobilizer to try to connect people and organizations with each other to make sure that those types of issues are addressed," Brenner explained. "We want the community to know that we are here to help to make sure that we don't lose anyone else to suicide."

She said teen suicide happens everywhere. Lake Orion is not alone.

"Because we're such a tight knit community we're feeling the shocks of it. Everyone supports everyone else, so when someone loses a child we all feel it and we all want to help," she said.

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