GREENFIELD — Teens in the audience gasped and cringed.
The county prosecutor and the head of the probation department detailed the ways people who share lewd photos of themselves can get in legal trouble, how nothing posted online truly goes away.
Brent Eaton and Josh Sipes explained to the audience in their talk on sexting that mobile apps like Facebook, Snapchat and others keep everything users send, even if those posts disappear from the users’ profiles.
That talk was the keynote event of Rise Above It: Resource Workshop, the second community event aimed at openly discussing mental health and addiction in order to educate the community and lessen the stigma of dealing with those issues. The event was a collaborative project among Hancock Health, Healthy 365’s System of Care and The Landing Place and featured a main speaker session and breakout sessions on a variety of topics for young adults and their support networks, said Linda Ostewig, director of The Landing Place, a no-cost recovery center for people age 13 to 19.
Sipes, the head of the Hancock County probation department, said the county’s law enforcement agencies want parents to know every single app on their child’s mobile devices and all the ways they can be dangerous. He explained how some apps contain internal messaging services and don’t require individuals to tie accounts to their phone numbers, making it easier for predators to remain anonymous.
He and Eaton, the county prosecutor, worked to make it clear to the young adults in the audience that even if photos or messages disappear in the apps they’re using, they can still be found.
“Everything you do online is preserved in some way,” Sipes said. “It doesn’t go away.”
While sexting and phone safety and security were the feature presentation, the workshop featured breakout sessions on a diverse array of topics, from smoking and vaping to anger management, with community stakeholders leading the discussions.
Dozens of at-risk youth were surveyed about their needs as community stakeholders worked to plan the second installment of “Rise Above It,” a seminar series focused on mental health awareness and overcoming challenges of all shapes and sizes. Ostewig surveyed the teens who regularly attend The Landing Place’s counseling and worship services, and those who attended the first Rise Above It event in November were surveyed as well, said Healthy 365 healthy community coordinator Amanda Everidge.
The breakout sessions were informal, with leaders and audience members sharing ideas and knowledge about the different topics. Melody Hufstedler, a licensed counselor with Oases in Greenfield, led the breakout session about anger management, sharing ways to prevent anger from getting to a dangerous point.
She asked the audience to tell the unhelpful ways they express their anger, and young adults said they have screamed, cried or punched a wall at times when they grew too angry.
Hufstedler said research shows expressing anger doesn’t make it go away. In 1999, Brad Bushman, Roy Baumeister, and Angela Stack looked at this issue in a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, where test subjects were made angry and given the opportunity to express their anger with a punching bag. The study showed those who sat quietly for a few moments rather than hitting the punching bag were less aggressive when given the opportunity to retaliate against their targets.
Audience members shared their favorite ways to spend time calming down, which included listening to music, taking a bike ride and drawing.
Jessica Abraham, leader of an addiction intervention program in the Hancock County Jail, led a breakout session about addiction and how it affects the brain and human development. The young adults in her groups were knowledgeable and enthusiastic, she said.
“They know almost more than I do,” she said.
The participation of the young adults in the breakout sessions was amazing, Everidge said. She sat in on a breakout session discussing depression and anxiety, where so many people crowded in, some had to sit on the floor.
The students feel comfortable at The Landing, she said.
“We wanted to bring folks to The Landing, come to their environment,” she said. “We wanted the kids to be in a place where they feel safe and loved. It’s easier to deliver the message, and they might be more receptive.”
She thought they seemed comfortable sharing and listening to the sessions, which were on some sensitive topics.
Aubrey Leffel, 19, has been coming to The Landing for about four years, she said. She attended a breakout session about grief and loss, which she said gave helpful tips for coping with the loss of a loved one.
“It was really touching,” she said. “They provided really good methods, made it easier to prepare for that loss.”
Leffel was impressed to see so many organizations come together for the event and support The Landing, founded by Ostewig.
“A lot of people don’t realize the resources that are out there for them,” she said. “Linda (Ostewig) is here serving recovery to us on a silver platter, and I think … we definitely need it.”