top of page

Groundbreaking Report Exposes COVID-19 Pandemic’s Long-lasting Effects on Rochester Youth’s Mental Health

As society adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic’s “new normal,” a hidden crisis unfolded – the toll on youth mental health. On February 29, 2024, Common Ground Health and Coordinated Care Services, Inc. (CCSI) release Unseen: Youth Mental Health and Wellness in the Pandemic Era, a report amplifying the voices of Rochester's young people and shedding light on their ongoing struggles.

The report is the culmination of extensive data collection efforts by Common Ground Health and CCSI; it offers crucial insights into the challenges faced by young people during the pandemic. The report features youth voices through poignant profiles derived from direct quotes of student experiences and vividly portrays how Rochester's youth confronted adversity and highlights their ongoing need for love and connection.

“Many young individuals consistently feel unseen and unloved by their communities,” said Melanie Funchess, director of mental health and wellness at Common Ground Health, “They are seeking out that one different, caring adult.”

The Third ACE Project brought together youth, caregivers, and organizational partners to study the impacts of the pandemic as a novel category of trauma for youth. They coined “Adverse COVID Events” to join the traditional “pair of ACEs” of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” and “Adverse Community Environments” when addressing youth mental health and wellness. This report is the result of the Third ACE workgroup’s efforts.

“Third ACE was an opportunity to speak to, and through, what my family experienced during and after COVID,” said Shamika Fusco, one of the parents who participated in the workgroup, “In this report, we have the confirmation of our experience and the words to express the feelings we had.”

The report sheds light on the disproportionate and long-term impact of the pandemic on communities of color, exacerbating existing disparities in health outcomes and access to resources for urban versus suburban youth. Through the direct quotations from predominantly youth of color in the report, the reader can start to see how the three ACEs overlap.

“I was outside all of the time before COVID,” reads one youth profile, “There were lots of events for kids. Now my block looks like a wasteland. No one’s outside anymore, and if they are it’s not for a good reason. It feels like people were replaced with NPCs [non-player characters in video games] and I don’t feel welcome in my community.”

By amplifying the voices and experiences of marginalized youth, Unseen serves as a catalyst for equitable solutions and systemic change in Rochester.

“I believe the Greater Rochester area will benefit from this knowledge when they read the report,” said Monique Carlton, one of the youth leaders who participated in the workgroup, “and I’m sure my friends and their families will benefit, as well.”

The report concludes with preliminary recommendations for culturally responsive and trauma-informed youth support. It calls for co-creation of solutions with youth. Finally and perhaps most importantly, it calls for authentic and meaningful connections among adults and young people.

“They need agape love,” added Funchess, “that unconditional love that shows up and gives itself without expecting anything in return.”

The Third ACE Project was funded through generous support from the ESL Charitable Foundation and the Wilson Foundation.

To learn more, read the full report at


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating

Top Stories

bottom of page