Teens and pre-teens gathered after school at The Mental Health Association in Niagara County, Inc., 36 Pine St., on Oct. 4 to celebrate the grand opening of a new youth community space, “The Couch.” The space was created to provide a free, safe and fun destination for youths, where they can relax, socialize and simply hang out.
Doors opened at 2 p.m. so youths could walk directly to “The Couch” from area schools upon dismissal. When they arrived, they were greeted by MHA staff and interns who invited them to have refreshments and make themselves comfortable in the newly remodeled space.
“The Couch” is furnished with a comfy couch, bean bag chairs, colorful seating and pillows, inspiring signs, a white board for doodling, board games, creative writing/drawing supplies, and a TV for movies and video games.
Fortune cookies, water and coffee will always be on hand, along with a friendly face.
The project name was inspired by the popular TV shows “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” in which the couch was a regular gathering place for groups of friends to talk, share the events of the day, ask for advice, feel supported and have fun. This is exactly what “The Couch” at the MHA will provide area youths.
Tara Porter, director of Compeer Niagara, led the project to create “The Couch” supported by the Mental Health Association in Niagara County, Inc. and the Niagara County Department of Mental Health.
“We are excited to offer this unique space where kids can come to be with friends, and even make a friend,” Porter said. “Everyone benefits from friendship and sometimes it just takes the right place to get it started. Good times, good ideas and good memories happen around the couch.”
“The Couch” will be open Mondays and Fridays from 3:30 to 7 p.m. (excluding business holidays). All youth aged 11 to 18 years are welcome.
“The Couch” is just one of the exciting initiatives that Compeer Niagara is undertaking in Lockport. Starting this fall, Compeer Niagara has launched a collaboration with Lockport City School District to create an in-school version of the Compeer Niagara program.
More information on “The Couch” or any of the Compeer Niagara programs can be found at www.mhanc.com or by calling 433-3780.
Danielle Conlan is the coordinator of Community Education & Referral for the Mental Health Association in Niagara County. She's also the coordinator of the Niagara County Coalition for Suicide Prevention.