Health

Parents join together to create a safe space for children and young adults – St George News

ST. GEORGE—The journey to find healing and strength through their children’s individual mental health struggles has led to the creation of a facility by four parents where kids and young adults can join together, receive support and learn the tools they need to handle stressful situations.

Life Launch Centers' founders Arden Smith, Ben Harris, Joni Dyches and Joe Newman smile on the golf course, Date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of Ben Harris, St. George News
Life Launch Centers’ founders Arden Smith, Ben Harris, Joni Dyches and Joe Newman smile on the golf course, date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of Ben Harris, St. George News

Joni Dyches, owner and financial director at Life Launch Centers’ told St. George News how she, along with Ben Harris, Arden Smith and Joe Newman, joined forces to create a mental health program that wasn’t available in Southern Utah at the time .

Dyches said they were working together in a substance abuse residential facility and that each of them had a child struggling with their mental health. There were no intensive outpatient services available in the area and they knew if their children were in need of these services, other children and young adults were, too. That’s when, in 2017, the four parents banded together and took the leap to start Life Launch Centers

At the time, Dyches said, she felt they were helping other peoples’ children and families, who would fly into St. George for substance abuse residential treatment, but felt they weren’t serving anyone in their own community.

She also said her own daughter was struggling heavily with her mental health at that time, enduring stomach aches from being overly stressed about school and even worried about eating lunch in front of fellow students because of her braces. So she isolated herself and became antisocial. Dyches said her daughter de ella was a spunky child but when puberty hit, she completely changed.

Life Launch Centers accept students ages 11–27. Puberty generally starts around age 11, which is also when many parents notice a change in their kids, the way she did. Dyches said at this age, kids struggle with their own misunderstood emotions while dealing with issues of self-confidence, adding that the brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 26 or 27. The age range between this time – from puberty to the end of brain development – ​​is essential.

“My daughter is a big advocate of this program – she loves it,” Dyches said. “She tells people, ‘You need to go to Life Launch,’ because the group changed her.”

Joni Dyches spends time with her daughter in nature, Date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of Jony Dyches, St. George News
Joni Dyches spends time with her daughter in nature, Date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of Jony Dyches, St. George News

Opening-up

Dyches said the children and young adults learn through the group that they aren’t weird or alone in their struggles. Initially, many who join the program may be nervous about the group, fearing they will be forced to talk to people, but students quickly acclimate and open up once they realize they aren’t alone. Connecting with others who are also suffering serves as a validation, while the course curriculums teach the tools necessary to process emotions in a healthy manner.

“Our brain really doesn’t know whether someone has hurt our feelings or we’re being chased by a bear – it doesn’t know, so it gets hijacked,” she added. “We’re all built the same in that way.”

According to the Life Launch Centers’ website“The Life Launch Centers Resilience Model utilizes the most current brain research combined with elements of evidence-based intervention models.”

The center also offers a virtual group program, which Dyches said is specifically made for smaller towns like Kanab, Fillmore and Beaver, where no intensive outpatient therapy options are available at this time.

Life Launch Centers is an eight to 12-week, Intensive Outpatient Program, with participants coming into the facility four days a week. Group sessions are held three times a week and individual therapy sessions are once per week. The website states that this program is “like the college course for kicking anxiety and depression to the curb.”

In addition to programs offered for students, Dyches said they offer a parent group twice a month, emphasizing how important it is for the entire family to be involved in the process.

Joni Dyches, owner and financial director at Life Launch Centers stands in front of the St. George facility, April 21, 2022, St. George, Utah | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News
Joni Dyches, owner and financial director at Life Launch Centers stands in front of the St. George facility, April 21, 2022, St. George, Utah | Photo by Jessi Bang, St. George News

Referring to the increasing suicide rate, Dyches stressed the importance of changing the current course of today’s youth. In just a five-year period, Life Launch Centers have built five locations in Utah, with St. George as the hub. Facilities also are located in Hurricane and West Jordon, along with Cedar City and Orem, which opened three months ago.

Dyches said that many of the programs’ referrals come from hospitals and therapists. The group also receives many referrals from bishops of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in preparation for upcoming missions, where individuals learn the skills and tools needed to handle anxiety and depression prior to going out in the field.

“We are all going to have anxiety and depression at different times in our lives,” Dyches said. “But when you understand the tools, how to de-stress and look at the situation, then we’re able to problem-solve.”

Social media and TV damaging to mental health

Dyches said that living in a world where individuals feel a sense of connection through digital media and TV can be damaging to mental health and that nothing can replace one-on-one, in-person interactions.

“We’re trying to educate parents that it’s true what the science is saying about social media,” Dyches said. “It really needs to be limited to the screen time, computers, phones, no one is dating, no one is going to know how to talk to people, it’s all taken away from us and so we have so much work to do.”

Dyches said she has seen drastic improvements in students who participate in the program. As an example, she said she has seen a child who entered the program very timidly go on to perform in talent shows. She said she’s also seen successful LDS missions completed and others who attended college – something those individuals never thought they would be able to do.

Life Launch Centers' founders Arden Smith, Joni Dyches, Ben Harris, and Joe Newman smile on the golf course, Date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of Joe Newman, St. George News
Life Launch Centers’ founders Arden Smith, Joni Dyches, Ben Harris, and Joe Newman smile on the golf course, Date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of Joe Newman, St. George News

Life Launch Centers accepts most insurance policies and that she manages all client accounts, including processing insurance claims and handling individual payment options. She said she has also seen sponsorships provided by businesses and clergies and even state assistance programs step in to help those who have fallen victim to abuse.

In an effort to support their ongoing educational efforts, Life Launch Centers also provides the ability to win a $1,000 scholarship each year by entering a video contest, with this year’s theme as “Anxiety Doesn’t Control My Life, I Control My Anxiety.”

“This program has changed my life,” Dyches said. “It’s the way I parent, it’s the way I handle situations and I truly believe that everyone needs this.”

For more information on Life Launch Centers and how they are changing the lives of families, children and young adults, click here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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