The Public Health Institute of Western MA (PHIWM) is launching the Springfield Youth Mental Health Coalition, a collaboration of municipal, public health, schools, social service providers, and youth working to lift up issues and resources for mental health among Springfield families and youth. The coalition’s kickoff event, in partnership with the Springfield Public Forum, will feature Dr. Alfiee Berland-Noble, a noted national speaker on mental health issues in BIPOC youth and young adults across all marginalized identities (i.e. LGBTQ+ and disabilities).
Through funding from the MA Department of Public Health Office of Problem Gambling and the Davis Foundation, the coalition will develop a communications campaign to normalize healthy conversations about mental health, work with schools on tools to support youth mental health; provide trainings to teachers and other providers; develop a peer-to-peer mentor framework; and provide educational webinars such as the partnerships with Estoy Aquí and the Springfield Public Forum.
“For years we have watched youth health survey data locally, statewide and nationally highlight the growing anxiety, depression and suicidality rates of our young people," noted Jessica Collins, PHIWM’s Executive Director. “We recognize the strengths and courage of young people to do something about this. Together – across age and sector-- the Youth Mental Health Coalition is working to lift up incredible insights and ideas of youth and families as well as best practice strategies to promote youth engagement and protect youth from community environments that exacerbate poor mental health.”
This coalition was formed after an extensive process led by PHIWM to gather information from community voices, local mental health service provider experts and data from existing assessments of community health needs. The planning process narrowed from a list of fifteen potential issues to one - youth mental and behavioral health. The recently released report, Mental Health Inequities Among Springfield Eighth Grade Students, shows the need for expanding and destigmatizing youth mental health services.
“To our Springfield community, we invite your participation on the coalition-- to offer behavioral health trainings, education and resources to your staff and families or attend the educational webinars to learn how to better support our local youth,” said Tiffany Rufino, PHIWM’s Youth Mental Health Coalition Manager.
A key component of the Coalition is the “Beat the Odds” youth group convened by Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Services (MLKJRFS). Ariana Williams, Director of Public Health at MLKJRFS remarked: "Beat the Odds is a safe space for our youth to express their thoughts or feelings without feeling judged or dismissed. Together we are empowered, and we aim to support one another and youth all over the city. With youth mental health arising as an emerging public health issue across the nation, our hope is that we can help erase the stigma around mental health for youth and families and promote the importance of a prioritizing a healthy mental state."
In addition, there is an overarching Advisory Committee of residents, agencies, schools, and mental health providers with representatives from the African Diaspora Mental Health Association, Baystate Health, Behavioral Health Network, Davis Foundation, Estoy Aquí, Gándara Center, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, New North Citizens Council, Out Now, Public Health Institute of Western MA, Springfield Office of Health and Racial Equity, Springfield Public Schools, Square One, and Tamera Crenshaw - Tools for Success Counseling, LLC.
The Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts was formed a little over 25 years ago with the goal of building measurably healthier communities using data and its convening power to create collaborative partnerships. For more information, visit https://www.publichealthwm.org/