Youth Community Mental Health Forum in Chelsea

By Seth Kinker,

On Apr. 29, the District Wellness Coalition hosted a Youth Community Mental Health Forum at the Chelsea Senior Center. The forum was facilitated by the Chelsea School District (CSD) with help from the community coalition, with all of these being under the umbrella of the St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital.

Chelsea has suffered, in recent years, from the passing of current and recent graduates of Chelsea high school. This forum was the beginning of the discussion about what members of the community can do to address and tackle the issue of youth mental health in Chelsea.

Upon signing in, you could indicate an area, or working group, you wanted to be a part of. The categories were access and treatment, stigma and education, and connectivity and resiliency with other an option to choose as well.

First, Reiley Curran, Director of Community Health Improvement at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea, welcomed the attendees and first asked them to identify their reason for attending. In addition to that, questions on a projector asked the attendees to identify what they hoped to get out of the forum and what they hoped as a result if the forum.

Then, they went over a few slides of data. They looked at percentages of kids in middle school and high school experiencing certain feelings over the course of the past month, how much average amount of sleep those middle and high school students got on an average school night, and the percentages of students who reported substance use.

The timeline looks as follows: A community needs assessment will be conducted over the course of the next month, to be completed by May 31. Then a strategic plan will be formed by Jul. 31, work groups made up of youth and adults will address “different pieces of the puzzle.”

Meetings will take place in June and July with intent to present the plan at another public forum in August. An implementation of strategies with community partners is planned for the Fall of 2019.

After the introduction, the forum split into two groups, children and adults.
The adults formed groups and had a set of discussion questions; Why are youth experiencing mental health problems in Chelsea? If you could do anything about these problems, what would you do? What should the work groups be for strategic planning?

Once they answered those questions in the small groups, representatives from each group talked about what they had discussed. Many touched on the same topics and groups were able to expand on things they talked about that hadn’t been mentioned.

While many touched on similar issues and the fact that youth mental health is not just a Chelsea problem, they reiterated it didn’t make the losses in the community any easier. The academic rigors and expectations were discussed as a factor, too.

“Chelsea students are under a lot of stress,” said the representative for one group. “We feel that there’s a lot of pressure on Chelsea students to be perfect, to be high achievers whether it’s in music, sports, academia, etc. And to fit in with those high achieving groups, and if they’re not part of one of those groups, they suffer.”

Outlets for stress and stigma against talking about mental health were brought up by another group, while they stressed sleep was a big factor that went into youth mental health.

Another parent who spoke asked his kids what issues they saw and brought up unreported bullying as a problem. Bullying had been identified in a school survey done by the city’s Human Rights Commission last year as well.

One group brought up communication from administration, stating they had heard a lot of “lip service” with a lack of attention and follow up to some issues going unresolved.

Chelsea city council member Jane Pacheco brought up the importance of education and preventative education for adults for these situations, stating that this generation of parents needs help to address these issues too. Another member of the crowd echoed Pacheco’s
sentiments adding that adults needed to not be afraid to tell another parent if they see something different about a child.

Once the youth returned, Lindsay Baker, Coalition Director of SRSLY Chelsea, updated the forum with what the youth had to say about the same questions the adults had discussed.

Baker said that the kids had talked about isolation and not feeling connected, pressures to succeed in school, and the effect of social media.

Accommodations and a lack of understanding from the schools was something Baker brought up. She also said the students reported a lack of support from the school with a lack of communication when programming is being done, and the stigma against asking for help as a student in general.

The students also answered the question of what would you do if you could do anything to solve the issue with things like a debrief day, a serenity room or break room, weekly checkups with counselors or other staff, school wide assemblies to increase education about mental health, small group discussions, education of students and parents, training for students and parents, an increase in communication across the board, and more understanding from adults when issues are brought up, just to name a few.

When SRSLY was originally formed, they held a similar public forum with another separately for youth to get more input. Curran reported near the end of the forum that another forum, specifically for youth, was in the works this time around as well.

Marcus Kaemming, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Curriculum and Human Resources for the CSD and a member of the District Wellness Committee, thanked parents, youth, staff members, and community members for attending the event.

“It must’ve been said 10-15 times ‘it’s a community scenario,’” said Kaemming. “This is not about a pocket of the community. From my perspective, I encourage you to continue to talk. Get a hold of us. This is an extremely important topic for all of us. There were a lot of things said tonight that I think resonate with all of us from the lens we have.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

One thought on “Youth Community Mental Health Forum in Chelsea

  • May 4, 2019 at 9:37 am

    The mental health problems are not easy to cure. The expert treatments are required to control over such health problems. The health insurance plans help in covering the treatment and hospital costs. These plans are available in The Health Exchange Agency company. I heard about this company as my uncle is also enrolled in it.

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