The Gateway Region YMCA is proud to continue the important work Starting the Conversation has begun.

Our mission is to help parents and caregivers be more prepared and proactive in their approach to kids' mental health and fitness, and we know that having open and effective conversations advances that goal. See below for more information on our events, history, panel, and resources.

If you are suffering in a mental health crisis, you can call 988 for mental health emergencies, or text HOME to 741741 for the crisis text line.

Learn about our events:

One out of every five people in the U.S. has a mental health diagnosis. While needing help with mental health is common, it currently takes an average of 10 years for people to get the help they need. Yet treatment is most helpful when diagnosis happens early.

Join us to:

  • Hear from parents about their experiences supporting their kids' mental fitness
  • Connect with free and low-cost mental health service providers
  • Get questions answered by healthcare professionals

May 23 • 6-7 PM • Virtual

July 25 • 6-7 PM • Virtual

October 10 • 6-7 PM • Virtual


Share Your Story & Become a Panelist

Get Involved

We believe that it is never too early to focus on kids' mental health and fitness.

The research shows that about half of all cases of chronic mental illness begin by age 14, and about three fourths begin by age 24.


Starting the Conversation began as a grassroots initiative launched by a small group of parents, caregivers, and family members of children and adults who are living with mental illness or trauma. In 2015, they began a conversation about how to bring awareness to mental health and fitness at the earliest stages of children's lives. In 2016, the first Starting the Conversation event was held. The program continued to grow and in 2019, STC became a Missouri nonprofit with section 501(c)(3) status. In 2020, Starting the Conversation began working with the Gateway Region YMCA and in 2021, it became a program of the Y to increase its reach to the MO/IL bi-state region.

The Y is very grateful to Julie Tang and Kate Tansey for founding and stewarding this effective program. We appreciate the way the program centers parents and creating supportive networks for and between them.

By sharing our experiences with openness and vulnerability, and without judgment, we let others know that they are not alone, and we help them find safety and liberation in talking about their own situations. By normalizing these types of conversations within our families and our communities, we combat social stigmas and help foster a new generation of youth who are both supported and supportive regarding mental health issues. By sharing the lessons we have learned, bringing in voices of expertise, and connecting families with resources, we provide vital information and help others raise mentally fit kids.


Our panels always include several parent panelists, each sharing a real life story of raising a child impacted by a mental illness or challenge.

Mental Health Professionals

Participants have the opportunity to ask questions to a child psychiatrist or other appropriate mental health professional.

Mental Health Resources

Starting the Conversation also connects people to providers of free and low-cost mental health services in the St. Louis area. At our events, we bring in representatives of these organizations so that people can connect with them in person and ask them questions.  We know that parents often do not know where to turn, or find it difficult to schedule a timely appointment, when suddenly faced with a child's pressing mental health issue. These organizations are there to help.

To volunteer as panelists, head to the top of this page and click Get Involved, or contact Earlisha Jefferson at to learn more.

Missouri Mental Health Resources

Illinois Mental Health Resources

NAMI - Fast Facts

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year.
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-14.

If you are interested in becoming certified in Youth & Adult Mental Health First Aid Trainings, there are a few surrounding organizations that offer these services and others.