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Local campaign, iRespect&Protect, receives support from dozens of organizations around the region

COURTESY PHOTO: LIBERTY HOUSE - Left to right: Liberty House Prevention Program Director Kelley Parosa;  iRespect&Protect Program Coordinator  Crystal Deffenbaugh; iRespect&Protect Student Intern  Faith Rodin.Area child advocacy professionals are rolling out a program that takes aim at mental health issues that have emerged in the digital age.

Liberty House Prevention Program Director Kelley Parosa noted in a press release that depression rates have risen considerably since 2007, which coincides with the emergence of smart phones. She stressed that suicide is currently the leading cause of death in Oregon for youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years.

The new program, iRespect&Protect, is a collaborative effort between Marion and Polk counties with hopes of changing the trend by offering free tools, resources and tool kits for youth, teens, parents, youth serving organizations and schools. The iRespect&Protect website, irespectandprotect.com, is anticipated to launch on Feb. 1.

The program is a culmination of collaborative efforts from teens, parents, medical and mental health professionals, educators, law enforcement, youth-serving organizations and other community members. The need was identified in 2018, and since then the vision has unfolded via focus groups held throughout the two-county region.

Parosa said iRespect&Protect's kick-off campaign will include bus and billboard ads and partnerships with local coffee cafes to raise awareness of the influence of device and social media use on mental health and self-esteem, particularly on teens. The iRespect&Protect website and programs will foster positive self-worth, promote healthy online choices and encourage safe relationships in the digital age.

"This project will continue to grow," Parosa said, "and we are encouraged by the amount of time, feedback and support we have received for this campaign from its inception in 2018, especially by the youth in our community. This is a community campaign, but this is a youth-led campaign as well."

Liberty House, the child abuse assessment center serving Marion and Polk counties, is facilitating the community effort.

Through iRespect&Protect's website, individuals, families and organizations can educate themselves about the influence of screen time on their lives. They can also find free tools, including digital media contracts and interactive conversation starters.

The website further provides contact information for crisis intervention, crisis prevention and ongoing support for a variety of challenges teens and parents of youth may experience, including online cruelty, sexting, sextortion, anxiety and depression and suicidal ideation.


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