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Imagine Boston area as a therapeutic landscape for young people

A group of young people gathered at Chez-Vous Roller Skating Rink in Dorchester in August 2018.Craig F. Walker

In “An antidote to the vitriol in public discourse” (Ideas, March 5), Stephanie Byttebier, who teaches rhetoric at Boston University, shares her perspective on the impact of the Boston Debate League on young people. BDL creates a welcoming environment for adolescents to be themselves by encouraging them to be intentional, listen carefully, and develop emotional intelligence with the support of trusted adults and peers. BDL sounds like one of many antidotes we need to combat our pediatric behavioral health crisis, as part of an overall therapeutic landscape. These are clinical and, importantly, nonclinical spaces where natural and built environments, social conditions, and human perceptions combine to produce an atmosphere conducive to healing.

Boston has others; I took my daughter to one on a recent Sunday at Chez-Vous Roller Skating Rink in Dorchester. More than 150 young people inside and another large group outside were there to skate, laugh, and dance battle any time the DJ played the beginning of “Just Wanna Rock” by Lil Uzi Vert. It was joyful.


As the state’s new secretary of health and human services thinks about advancing the state’s Behavioral Health Roadmap, investments in therapeutic landscapes for young people would be innovative, practical, and public health-oriented.

Dr. Kevin M. Simon


The writer is the chief behavioral health officer for the City of Boston and an attending psychiatrist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Boston Children’s Hospital.