According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depression is a common mental disorder affecting adolescents in the U.S. An estimated 3 million-plus adolescents aged 12-to-17 in the U.S. have at least one major depressive episode per year. It’s an issue that public schools, family counselors and even Hollywood have tried to address in recent months. And a new weekend conference coming to Kissimmee Feb. 23-24 is designed specifically to help Jr. high students navigate the difficult conversations associated with mental health, suicide and unhealthy habits.

CIY’s Believe team will host its “WITH” conference Feb. 23-24 at the Silver Spur Arena in Kissimmee, Florida. According to Mike Branton, Believe’s program director, the topic of depression, loneliness and isolation is one that is prevalent for Jr. high students and it was a no-brainer for CIY to examine the topic during this year’s 12-city tour.

“We tried to key in on what students need to hear,” Branton said. “Students are having these feelings that they don’t know what to do with – like anxiety and depression – and they’re really all rooted back to loneliness, feeling disconnected or unsupported. As we searched for answers, we went to Scripture and discovered that God’s answer to isolation is offering them His constant presence. He was with them. Today, we get the Holy Spirit as a continuation of God being with us. So, at this year’s tour we’re helping Jr. high students find a way to understand that God is with them no matter what fear or feeling they’re having.”

To help deliver this message, Believe has enlisted the help of one of the best Jr. high speakers in the world, Robert Watson – teaching pastor at Sun Valley Community Church in Arizona. Believe has also partnered with contemporary recording artist Merci Neff, and a competitive dance crew known as Kalied Dance Crew. Branton said Believe partners with artists like this to help connect with students in an age-intentional way. CIY also produces its own films and videos for that same reason, some of which will be shown during the WITH conference.

“The film at this year’s Believe conference is a pretty prominent piece,” Branton said. “This year it’s called ‘The Institute for Loneliness.’ The concept revolves around a government agency with scientists who are experimenting on Jr. high students – figuring out ways to isolate them from God and trying to make them feel lonely. We’re trying to show the flip side of this … like the enemy is trying to make you feel this way. Your feelings are real, but the reality is God is with you.”

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Media Contact: Chris Roberts – 417-781-2273;

Onsite Contact: Shawna Miller – 417-529-2515;


About Believe

Believe is a high-energy weekend event specifically for Jr. high students. It is packed with powerful worship, intense drama and teaching from God’s Word. The 2018 Believe tour will visit 12 cities across the U.S. For more information, visit


About Christ In Youth

For 50 years, Christ In Youth has been providing events, missions experiences and resources that amplify Christ’s call on students’ lives in partnership with the local church. More than 85,000 students and leaders attend at least one of CIY’s 115 programs held throughout 20 countries each year. CIY partners with the local church to help call students to a maturing knowledge of Christ in preparation for Kingdom service. For more information, visit

Study from National Institute of Mental Health


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