Youth Mental Health and the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Systemic challenges require systemic change; change that is intentionally engineered with a deep understanding of the lived experience of those living in our community. The Third ACE Project is a collaborative initiative of Common Ground Health and Coordinated Care Services, Inc. (CCSI) focused on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on youth mental health. This project seeks to explore the COVID-19 pandemic as a third “ACE,” in addition to the “pair of ACEs” (Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adverse Community Environments) framework, and uses quantitative and qualitative data to better understand the layered effect of multiple traumas on young people.

The Third ACE workgroup co-creates equitable solutions by bridging the lived experiences of caregivers and youth with the service experiences of local community-based organizations and the policy and fiscal authority of community leaders. We seek to serve as a community catalyst to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the chronic and acute mental health outcomes for local youth. Over the course of the project, we will create a change agenda to guide future decision-making to support youth mental health.

Unseen report

As society adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic’s “new normal,” a hidden crisis unfolded – the toll on youth mental health.

The report Unseen: Youth Mental Health and Wellness in the Pandemic Era 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.

A primary goal of this project was to authentically integrate community voice, demonstrating how systems, providers, caregivers and youth can co-create solutions together.

Download the report (.pdf)
Watch report trailer  (50s)



The Third ACE Iceberg Model

The Third ACE workgroup developed an iceberg model to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on youth.

An iceberg model shows different parts of a system. The highest part is what we can see... but there’s more to it below the surface. As you go deeper, you understand the system better and also have more power or leverage to change it.

Download The Third ACE Iceberg Model  (.pdf)


  • What just happened?
  • Traumatic, stressful events just keep coming.
  • Engaging in violence and school avoidance are reactions for some youth struggling to cope.

  • What trends have there been over time?
  • Lost opportunities, lost social-emotional development
  • Physical health is prioritized over mental health.
  • Pressure to perform and conform

  • What has influenced the pattern? And what are the relationships between the parts?
  • Disconnect from culture and identity
  • Adults lack the capacity and/or tools to support the youth in their lives
  • Racism, prejudice and bias exacerbate youth mental health challenges.

  • What assumptions, beliefs, and values do people hold about the system? And what beliefs keep the systems in place?
  • Disconnect from culture and identity
  • Adults lack the capacity and/or tools to support the youth in their lives
  • Racism, prejudice and bias exacerbate youth mental health challenges.


Workgroup Roster

Click the arrows to the right to view our workgroup roster.

Lynn Mordenga

Allen Jackson

Jamia Williams

Shamika Fusco

José Rosado

María Moran

Arjun Patel

Isaiah Santiago

Monique Carlton

Django Paine

Assata Evans

Aubrey Lamb

Anne Kern (Monroe County Dept. of Public Health)

Beverly Hill (Ibero-American Action League)

Shalymn Nater (Ibero-American Action League)

Danielle Jones (LMHC)

Denise Stokes (Hillside Family of Agencies)

Dr. LJ Shipley (URMC Golisano Children's Hospital)

Elizabeth Meeker (CCSI)

Erin Graupman (RCSD)

Eve Hosford (Rochester Regional Health)

LeKeyah Wilson (Rochester Regional Health)


Sarah Fletcher (City of Rochester Dept. of Recreation and Human Services)

Stephanie Baxter (Lily of the Valley COGIC)

Valerie Douglas (Center for Youth)


Past Work on Youth Mental Health

Prior to the Third ACE initiative, Common Ground Health convened 15 youth from the Finger Lakes region to share key messages about the mental health of young people in our region during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Visit our FLX Teens Are Alright site to access free resources generated by youth.


If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact Hannah Shippee, Program Coordinator, at 585-224-3152.