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Center for Adolescent Health

Center for Adolescent Health Blog

Keyword: mental health

Dr. Renee M. Johnson has been appointed Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, Incusion (DEI) for the JHSPH Mental Health Department.

"In her new role, Renee will lead our department’s diversity, equity and inclusion activities, including chairing our department committee for diversity, equity, and inclusion (which is yet to be officially named, but may follow the school’s IDARE initiative label (Inclusion, Diversity, Anti-Racism, and Equity)). In addition, she will serve on the School’s IDARE committee to help implement unified school-level strategies, joined by diversity leaders from other departments of the School. Importantly, in her role as a Vice Chair, she will help us hold the department accountable to IDARE principles in all activities and decision making," the Mental Health Department Chair Dr. Margaret Daniele Fallin said in announcing the appointment.

Dr. Johnson is the Training Core Lead in the Center for Adolescent Health, as well as working in the Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research, the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Bloomberg American Health Initiative.

Our goal with the Project POWER (Promoting Options for Wellness and Emotion Regulation) school-based intervention is to evaluate the potential benefits of a trauma-informed coping skills program called RAP (Relax, be Aware, and do a Personal Rating) Club for the emotional health and academic success of eighth grade students.

We compared RAP Club with a health education program called Healthy Topics, which we expect will have different kinds of benefits. Over the past four years, our team partnered with 29 Baltimore City Public Schools. We worked with each school for one year to deliver the programs. We trained school personnel in how to continue offering the programs in the future if they wish. This is a brief update and summary of our work so far. We are starting to analyze data on how the programs impacted students and look forward to sharing outcomes with schools, families, and other audiences.

See our latest report to our partner schools below:

RAP Club infographicpg1

RAP Club infographicpg2

Study funders: Institute of Education Sciences (R305A160082; PI: Mendelson); Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (1R01HD090022; PI: Mendelson)

Tamar Mendelson is the new co-director of the Center for Adolescent Health

Exciting change is underway at the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health! Tamar Mendelson, PhD, recently became our Center’s Co-Director after a national search. She will assume the role of Center Director in October 2018. Dr. Mendelson has been faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of Mental Health since 2006.

Mendelson is no stranger to the Center. She has collaborated with our faculty and staff on several research projects over the years, including Healthy Minds at Work, which addressed the many mental health issues faced by young people in Baltimore Youth Opportunity (YO) programs through mental health screenings, mental health education/training, psycho-educational activities, and comprehensive mental health services. Along with Center faculty member Kristin Mmari, Mendelson now leads the Risks to Adolescent Health workgroup for the Bloomberg American Health Initiative.

The seeds of Mendelson’s future work began during her childhood in New York City. “The disparities were very evident,” she said. “From a young age, I was disturbed by the inequalities in our society and wanted to find a way to work to achieve greater equality.”

Mendelson completed her masters and doctoral training in clinical psychology at Duke University, followed by a clinical psychology internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco. She was also a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Mendelson’s internship at a large public hospital in San Francisco sparked her interest in the social determinants of health and population health more broadly. “I realized that a lot of my training had been focused on psychological factors within the individual. It really didn't address all of the stressors that affect people living in poverty and how those stressors impact wellbeing,” she explained.

Her time as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar introduced her to population health and eventually led her to the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Mendelson’s research focuses on preventing emotional and behavioral problems in urban youth and adolescents.

“The work I do now is public mental health research--thinking a lot more about populations and how to create evidence‑based interventions that can be integrated into systems that serve youth and families,” Mendelson said.

Mendelson has strong relationships with important stakeholders in Baltimore City, many of whom are also longtime partners of the Center. Building on the history of collaboration will guide the Center forward. “I’ve known Tamar since my early days at Hopkins,” said Center faculty member and associate professor Terri Powell, PhD. “She’s a thoughtful researcher and an incredibly hard worker. We’re lucky to have her,” added Powell.

As Tamar takes on the role of CAH Co-Director, we begin developing our applied research project for the next CDC Prevention Research Centers funding cycle for 2020-2024. We are incredibly appreciative of Dr. Philip Leaf, PhD, who will co-direct with Mendelson over the next year to ensure a smooth transition. Welcome to CAH, Tamar!



Thirteen Reasons Why is a fictional Netflix series. The show is about a girl who over the course of several years got bullied and raped, which led to her declining mental health. In the series, she leaves tapes for 13 people to describe their role in her decision to end her life. The show was the first exposure to the topic of mental health for some people. However, it is important to acknowledge some key differences between the series and what some people may experience in real life mental health.

                First off, Thirteen Reasons Why was written to be an over dramatized story. What does this mean? Well, it means that the creators were trying to draw watchers into the story. Of course, the truth can be warped to fit within the story and it be used as a cautionary tale, BUT, it might be worthwhile for people to follow up watching this show by doing research on mental health or talking to someone who works in the mental health profession. Doing this will ensure that we are not creating inaccurate stereotypes of folks who may be experiencing trauma in their lives.

                Second, there are many more options to addressing distressful and traumatic experiences than suicide. In 2014, only 13 people out of every 100,000 people committed suicide. However, there are roughly 18.5% of adults in the US experience some form of mental illness, and many of them are able to live with their illness. Most of them use therapy, medications or other healthy ways to deal with mental illness. The take away point is that people respond differently to mental health challenges and deal with them in different ways.

                Thirdly, suicide is never the survivors fault. The main character in the series blames other people for her committing suicide. Suicide is no one’s fault. Suicide is the result of a person feeling they have no other options. In some ways, the series romanticized suicide through the tapes that she left for others to hear. Suicide is not beautiful, it is upsetting and sad.

There are many things that you can do in life to help yourself or other people who might be having a hard time:

Be there for them as much as you can.

  • Sometimes people feel they are fighting their battles alone. This is often not the case. Simply and constantly showing them they you are here for them can only help.

Listen, and don’t judge.

  • It’s okay if you don’t directly understand what they are going through. Letting them talk to you about how they are feeling can be very cathartic for some people. That’s why you’ll need to be careful how you react to what they tell you, because it is often hard to tell people about this in the first place.

If you believe that they are going to hurt themselves, never wait for them to actually do it.

  • I know that you might want to stay on that person’s good side. This is not the time to think of yourself. If they give signs that they might be self-harming or seriously thinking about suicide, contact an adult or the authorities. They might be angry at you afterwards for stopping them, but connecting them to someone who can help is critical. It has to be more important to you that they are alive and safe rather than them liking you.

If you feel like you can’t handle the information they are giving you, it is OK to take a step back.

  • You can to help without sacrificing your own mental health for them. Both of you should have a person (e.g., a therapist, teacher, parent, other adult figure) to talk to.

When in doubt, take the advice that you are given on a plane in case of an emergency: apply your own mask before helping someone else. So it’s okay to take care of yourself before trying to help others. Stay safe and stay connected.

For more resources, please visit:

By: Ellen Nikirk

Ellen Nikirk attends Garrison Forest High School. As a participant in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program, she is working with and learning from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health.


More people than ever are being diagnosed and affected by mental health issues. In 1998 only 16.1 million people were receiving mental health treatment. In 2007, there were 23.3 million individuals. Wow! This is mostly because of more accurate screening tools and greater public acceptance. What we can’t tell is how many more people are not receiving help because of the stigma associated with mental health treatment.

There has been and continues to be a stigma around mental health disorders. This is even true for young people. In previous years, some parents ignored their children’s symptoms. Others sent their children away psychiatric wards so the public would not see them. Ridiculous! While this certainly is not the case anymore, there is still so much unknown to the public about mental health. And that is the issue! Because of the stigma and negative reactions, some people with mental health issues hide their diagnoses from the rest of the world. But this should never be okay! The longer someone battles the mental disorder alone, the longer and more difficult it becomes to treat.

It seems that people take less notice of diseases and disorders if you cannot see them on the outside. For example, we all know that we should have a healthy diet because if not, we may not be at a healthy weight. It can be much harder to identify and address mental disorders when compared to an eating habit or other illnesses related to physical health. The public can see if someone is over or underweight, but can we see if someone has an anxiety disorder? Depression? NO! We can’t, but that doesn’t make mental health any less important than physical health!

So how can young people get the help they need without being scared of what people might think? Having a consistent, engaging, and involved home life makes a person feel more comfortable and willing to voice their symptoms of mental illness. Being in a learning environment with zero-tolerance for bullying and where an individual’s needs and interests are addressed can have the same benefit. Still, only about one-half of adolescents with severe mental disorders receive treatment. Hopefully, more people our age will get the treatment they need as awareness and recognition increases.

May is mental health awareness month. For more information about ways to help young people who may have mental health issues, please visit:

  1. -
  2. Time to Change -
  3. Mental Health America

By: Augusta Worthington & Mary Davlin

Augusta Worthington and Mary Davlin attend Garrison Forest High School. As participants in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program, they are working with and learning from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health.