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By Seth Kinker, skinker@thesuntimesnews.com

In April a public forum addressing youth mental health took place and shortly after three workgroups (stigma and education, connectivity and resiliency access and treatment) were formed to address specific aspects of a broader plan that was to be presented to the community later in the fall.

On Aug. 19 a second public forum took place at the Washtenaw Street Education Center, by the Youth Mental Health Community Collaborative (YMHCC) to tell those in attendance what the workgroups did over the summer as well as laying out the plan for the short, medium, and long term.

A posted agenda on a slideshow for the evening had four goals: to provide clarity on the vision and mission of the YMHCC, background and the process of what the YMHCC has been doing this summer, Logic Models for youth mental health in Chelsea, and turning plans into action.

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The vision is to have “a community where youth feel their emotional and mental health is supported, where it is safe to ask for help, and where there are enough resources to meet their needs.”

The mission is “to empower youth and families to address mental health through support systems, education, and resiliency.”

Once workgroups were formed in May, they met separately to form those Logic Models to share at the Aug. 19 forum. The purpose of the Logic Models, and why it was specifically chosen, was to connect the root causes of the problem to strategies, activities, and measurable outcomes.

The models answered five questions in helping plan broad community-based initiatives: What’s the problem? Why’s it a problem? Why’s it a problem here? What are we going to do about it (strategies and activities)? How will we know if we made a difference (measurable outcomes)?

Next steps include getting the youth voice, action planning, and capacity building.

Citing the 2018 MiPHY and 2019 CSD ATOD surveys, the YMHCC says that too many youths in Chelsea are feeling the negative side effects of mental health issues.

Those include one third of high school aged students feeling anxious more than half the days or nearly every day in the past month (CSD ATOD), 27.4% of 9th – 11th grade students reported feeling depressed in the past year (MiPHY), and 14 percent of 9th – 11th graders considered self-harm or suicide ideations in the past year (MiPHY).

The YMHCC wants to increase connectivity and resiliency in the Chelsea community, increase mental health education/awareness/understanding, reduce stigma around mental illness, and reduce barriers while enhancing access to treatment.

Each group then had a co-leader talk about some of the things they had found or discussed over the summer.

Connectivity wise, they talked about reducing the negative impact of the overuse of cell phones and social media in kids and adults, increasing youth driven activities in Chelsea, and increasing support for youth who aren’t apt to join clubs or aren’t athletes or musicians.

Resiliency wise, they talked about reducing the pressure to excel, the pressure to be “perfect” and the societal norm of “Everything is great!” perpetuated by adults, increasing opportunities for kids to develop independence and learn healthy coping skills,

On the education side of the Stigma and Education workgroup they discussed increasing mental health education for youth such as their knowledge of available resources and how to access resources. Increasing awareness of signs and symptoms of mental illness was highlighted, as was the need to normalize counseling so youth didn’t feel hesitant to talk to a counselor,
clarifying school policies and expectations among the staff/students/parents/extracurricular leaders, having increased conversations around youth mental health, increasing law enforcements awareness of youth mental health, and clarifying employee policies for supervisors and student employees.

The Access and Treatment workgroup brought up being more aware of levels of care and increasing the number of providers and their availability. They also discussed having the type of services to match what the youth need and want and when, where and how they can get access to that treatment,

Then, there was an interactive portion of the forum where attendees answered multiple choice questions electronically and a question about what theme, in one word, they had heard and had stood out to them in the presentations.The more a word was submitted, the bigger the word appeared on the screen.

Education, conversation, access, youth, and resources were the top five.

When asked what strategies and activities you think will have the biggest long-term impact, 30% said increasing awareness and understanding of mental health.

When asked what strategies and activities they thought were most important to begin immediately, 38% voted to once again increase awareness and understanding of mental health.

In addition to getting input from youth in the community about this plan, a youth leadership team is to be established for this collaborative.

The YMHCCC then offered to present a condensed portion of their presentation to whomever would listen, be that city councils, school boards, or hospital boards. They also noted capacity building, people and funding, are a priority in the immediate future as is defining who will do what by when.

Immediate mental health resources were provided at the end of the presentation before taking questions from the crowd.

24/7 Crisis lines:

University of Michigan Emergency Mental Health and Psychiatry: 734-936- 5900.

Washtenaw County Community Mental Health: 734-544-3050 OR 1-800-440-7548.

Ozone house: 734-662-2222, ozonehouse.org.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255, suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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