Bartel Foundation Extends FORTitude for Teen Mental Health

The Ryan Bartel Foundation has extended its FORTitude programs through July to give teenagers a chance to connect.

FORTitude Teen Meet Up includes online, interactive meet ups for high schoolers and middle school-aged teens. The 60-minute sessions take place biweekly and encourage connection, friendship, sharing and fun, while discussing different coping skills teens are using for dealing with isolation.

According to the foundation, adverse mental health symptoms, including depression and anxiety, can be exacerbated by isolation, fear of the unknown, and life changes, such as loss of graduation celebrations and other social rites of passage that teens depend upon to thrive. 

“Social connections plays a key role in suicide prevention, which is why we quickly developed virtual programs since the COVID-19 pandemic began to ensure teens and families could stay connected, in spite of sheltering at home, while receiving tips and tools for practicing resilience skills to help them get through this time,” stated Val Walters, the executive director of The Ryan Bartel Foundation.

“The teen meetups have helped me a tremendous amount throughout quarantine. I’ve been feeling stressed and anxious, and the meetups always help me feel better,” one teen shared after FORTitude session. 

FORTitude teen meetups are moderated by certified Sources of Strength-trained staff and password protected to keep the experience safe, according to Walters. 

The Foundation has also created a version of FORTitude for Parents. Those biweekly virtual panels feature local mental health professionals discussing parenting issues that could be arising from this current crisis, and answering questions to help parents deal with their teens as well as how to cope with their own stress and anxiety. 

A third variation on the program, a virtual version of the “FORT” workshops that used to be available in person, has also launched. Those 90-minute workshops help teens to put Sources of Strengths into practice using their own interests, with an interactive experience meant to build further connectivity, resilience and sense of belonging.

The Ryan Bartel Foundation’s Sources of Strength training is an evidence-led mental wellness and suicide prevention training program for teens and adults that has been implemented across 27 Loudoun County public schools and many other community groups so far. The foundation is also working on a way to deliver a virtual version of that program too, which they hope to launch soon, according to Walters. 

The nonprofit Ryan Bartel Foundation was founded to prevent youth suicide after Suzie Bartel’s son, the foundation’s namesake, took his own life.

Registration is required for all FORTitude sessions and links can be found at

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