starting the conversation

With research showing about half of all cases of chronic mental illness beginning by age 14, the Gateway Region YMCA announced today a program to help address this critical challenge. Titled “Starting the Conversation,” the program helps parents and caregivers learn how to engage in effective conversations with their kids, how to identify concerning behaviors, and how to access resources in their communities, including professional help.

Starting the Conversation began more than six years ago as a grassroots initiative launched by a small group of caregivers. Last spring, after working with the Y on various events, Starting the Conversation co-founder Julie Tang approached the Y about growing the reach of the organization on a much larger scale throughout the region.

“We are excited and grateful that the Gateway Region YMCA has taken on this vital program. The Y will carry on our mission and will use its extensive resources to reach even more youth and families--not only in the St. Louis area, but hopefully beyond our region as well,” said Ms. Tang.  

“At the Y, we are always evolving by offering programs that are relevant and responsive to the changing needs of our community, especially when it comes to youth,” stated Caroline Mitchell, YMCA Community Development Executive Director. “We are proud to build upon the tremendous legacy Julie Tang, Kate Tansey and their colleagues began years ago to help parents and other caregivers be more prepared and proactive in their approach to the mental health and mental fitness of our youth.”

With one out of five children ages 13 to 18 living with a mental health condition, all parents must recognize that their children may at some point be included in this population.  Starting the Conversation hosts free, informative, and time efficient events to educate caregivers that mental health issues can arise in children of any age, background, or circumstances, and that a vital tool for addressing these issues is conversation. The program also connects caregivers with providers of free and low-cost mental health services.

The first YMCA-sponsored Starting the Conversation event will be 6 – 7 PM, Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at the Chesterfield Family YMCA (16464 Burkhardt Place, Chesterfield, MO 63017). Caregivers may attend in person or virtually. Pre-registration is required to attend virtually. Registration is not required to attend in person, and the event is free and open to the public. More information on the program and event is available at: