'Peer Pressure' by Deborah Holtschlag

‘Peer Pressure’ by Deborah Holtschlag

The painting shows a dozen young adults lined up, each of them apparently pushing the person in front, with facial expressions varying from mild discomfort to downright despair.

As such, Deborah Holtschlag’s “Peer Pressure” serves as a stunning visual of what life can mean for today’s teenagers.

“It’s a really, really challenging time in our history, and parents don’t always know what to do,” said Mary Birks, executive director of the nonprofit Outreach Teen and Family Services.

Outreach paintings

Artist Deborah Holtschlag, center, with donors Dr. G. Alan and JoEllen Yeasted, left, and and Stacey Vroegindewey Rhodes and Andy Rhodes.

Thanks to the generosity of the artist and two local couples, “Peer Pressure” and a pair of other similarly themed paintings now hang permanently at the 45-year-old agency’s office in Mt. Lebanon.

“We’re deeply humbled by their gift,” Birks said. “It certainly gives the office a more professional look, and it tells a story. And since we’re used to having kids who have stories, it’s good to see some of the artwork reflecting some of the things that they’re dealing with on a daily basis.”

Dr. G. Alan Yeasted, former St. Clair Hospital chief medical officer, and his wife, JoEllen, provided a donation toward the artwork, as did Stacey Vroegindewey Rhodes, who serves on the Outreach Teen and Family Services board, and her husband, Andy Rhodes.

The agency provides counseling and other services, mainly to teens, but the client list also includes younger children, parents and families.

“Our counselors are, at a minimum, master’s level,” said Birks adding there are some licensed as clinical social workers and professional counselors, all the way up to doctorate level. “It’s very important to me to invest in the people of this organization and make sure they can stay on top of their chosen career, because that allows us to retain some really great talent.”

Founded in 1974 primarily to address drug and alcohol issues in the South Hills, Outreach Teen and Family Services has expanded its emphasis over the years. According to Birks, the most common conditions clients battle today are anxiety and depression.

“Just think about bullying when we were back in school. When we would leave school, it would sort of be over. But now, it’s 24-7. Bullying is insidious, and it’s all through social media,” she said. “So the kids have those kinds of pressures on them, and they never seem to have any kind of a release from it.”

The agency supports efforts to deal with substance abuse.

Outreach is partnering with Mt. Lebanon Police Department and St. Clair Hospital to present “Hidden in Plain Sight,” an interactive display that simulates a teenager’s bedroom to provide adults with insight to current trends in drug paraphernalia and concealment.

The display will be housed in a trailer, managed by the police department, that is scheduled to make its debut at Mt. Lebanon’s Aug. 2 First Friday celebration.

“The idea is for the police department to inform parents about things that could be indicative of drug use and abuse,” Birks said. “And then our role is to make sure that parents understand how to have a conversation with your child that doesn’t become accusatory or things of that nature.”

She said Mt. Lebanon Police Chief Aaron Lauth has spoken to his counterparts throughout the South Hills about “Hidden in Plain Sight.”

“They’re very interested in also having it come around,” she said. “So we’re excited that it’s going to get us out there. It’s a really great opportunity to reach out to many different communities and remind them that we’re here for their kids and their families.”

For more information, visit outreachteen.org.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!