Skateboarding and punk rock. In many ways it doesn’t really get any better than this, but for youths who skate at Washington Jefferson Skatepark, mental health may be on their mind instead of landing a varial kickflip.
The deaths of local skaters Silas Strimple in 2021 and Ben Moody in 2022 starkly show that there is a lack of mental health resources for youths.
With the rate of suicides in Lane County increasing by 80 percent from 2000 to 2020 — and one in ten 6th graders and one in five 11th graders seriously considering suicide in 2020, according to Lane County Public Health Prevention — something needs to change. This is where Radical Alternative Development (RAD) steps in.
RAD is a cohort of mental health specialists, social workers and drug/alcohol counselors in Lane County. They will be hosting an Oct. 7 event titled “Together We are Enough,” which is a resource fair, skateboarding competition, punk show and community building project aiming to help the 12-to-26 age group in times of need.
The goal is to provide resources such as Narcan, food and sexual health items to the community, as well as to raise awareness that help for whatever problem arises is available.
According to RAD creator Brijit Jenkins, many houseless and at-risk youth find it difficult to relate to a doctor in a lab coat, finding it much easier to communicate with someone who is “punk.” “We need to provide the resources and make everything accessible for these people because it’s not accessible for people who are living in a tent,” Jenkins says.
Now in its second year, Jenkins hopes that RAD’s event can reach more people and create a much needed sense of community. “Last year I saw so many kids talking to different therapists, like there’s one called Ideal Options. The dude from Ideal Options is fully sung down. He’s an old school punk,” Jenkins says. “I’m here to talk to you about it right now, looking you in the eyes. When you go to their clinic or you go to their space, you see them, and so it’s an easier route to connect people directly.”
The event starts with a game of skate, in which skateboarders attempt each respective skateboarder’s flatground tricks until someone fails. The winner will receive a complete skateboard deck from Tactics and a bundle of merchandise from the punk bands performing.
Many Eugene nonprofits will be in attendance, including HIV Alliance, Ideal Options, Community Outreach through Radical Empowerment (CORE), Burrito Brigade, TransPonder and White Bird Clinic. Punk bands will be playing from 1 pm to 9 pm including DeadForm coming from Oakland, California; Pain Without End from Bend; and Agarik from Portland. Each nonprofit will be tabling the event for free, and each artist will be donating money to the cause.
Jenkins received a grant from the city of Eugene as well as permission to hold the event at Washington Jefferson Park. According to Jenkins, it took “a lot of communication, meetings and emails” to get everything sorted, but it is all worth it in the end.
More information can be found on Instagram @rad.eugene.oregon