Open Accessibility Menu

Fourth annual BRAVE Summit hosts nearly 2,000 teens, focuses on mental health

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Erin Wallner
Fourth annual BRAVE Summit hosts nearly 2,000 teens, focuses on mental health

The fourth annual BRAVE Summit welcomed nearly 2,000 high school students from across Florida Wednesday (March 27), breaking down stigmas and normalizing conversations around mental health. The free event was hosted by UF Health St. Johns at the St. Augustine Ampitheatre.

Mental health advocates Kevin Hines and Odd Rod inspired students with their powerful, personal stories, the Youth Mental Health Amercia Panel hosted question-and-answer sessions, and more than 45 vendor booths supplied attendees with information and resources. The afternoon also featured a silent disco, skate ramp demonstrations, dance team and drum line performances, and nationally recognized music artists Nicky Youre and Crash Adams, who closed out the event.

“In just four years, the BRAVE Summit has become an important means of outreach to youth, not only in our community but across the state,” said Carlton DeVooght, president and CEO of UF Health St. Johns. “It is rewarding to see this event grow year-over-year and to witness the impact it is having on making tough conversations about mental health more accessible.”

The growth of the BRAVE Summit has been inspiring, said Paige Stanton, the event’s founder and executive director of UF Health St. Johns Care Connect.

“We had more than 1,000 youth attend last year and to have nearly double that number join us this year brings us so much joy and tells us that we are filling a need of these youth,” Stanton said. “Our goal is to reach as many young people as possible to let them know that it’s OK to talk about mental health, that there are resources available if and when they need help, that there are people who care and that they are not alone.”

To help support students in the long term, a concurrent summit for parents, caregivers and guardians took place at The Elks Lodge. The event provided adults with the resources they need to have successful, productive conversations with their youth about mental health and wellness.

The BRAVE Summit is a centerpiece event of the BRAVE program. BRAVE, which stands for Be Resilient and Voice Emotions, was founded in 2019 and has already made significant progress in connecting high school teens to mental health resources. Before BRAVE’s implementation in St. Johns County Schools, only 35% of students who were referred to mental health providers were seen by a medical professional. With the BRAVE program, that rate has increased to 90%. Since its founding and despite the pandemic, BRAVE has expanded into more school districts, including Clay, Nassau, Putnam, Okaloosa and Volusia counties, with the ability to assist more than 200,000 students.