The Springfield Youth Mental Health Coalition is convened by the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. The Coalition consists of behavioral health and youth-serving organization serving youth and families across Greater Springfield. We are led by our outstanding Youth Advisors, known as Beat the Odds (BTO), Forget the Statistics - a name they branded themselves!
In 2019 we embarked on a year long planning process to identify an existing health concern exacerbated by the presence of a casino in Springfield, MA. An Advisory Board gathered diverse community voices and content expert input as well as data from existing community health needs assessments, to strategically narrow from a list of fifteen potential issues to one - youth behavioral health. While risks to youth behavioral health include gambling and the presence of a casino, we also know it goes far beyond that issue.
As we approach 2023, the YMHC has embarked upon four preventative strategies to safeuard and bring awareness to youth mental health. Recognizing trauma is often a generational hand-me-down, we seek to inform and educate adult supporters about youth mental health; particularly from a cultural and social justice perspective.
YMHC preventative strategies
1. Peer Mentoring Collaborative
This collaborative began as a series of interviews conducted with near peer mentoring organizations in an attempt to understand the landscape of near peer mentoring in Greater Springfield. Through these conversations, we learned near peer mentoring is under the umbrella of Peer Mentoring and were also able to identify how the coalition can support near peer mentoring organizations
The goal of this collaborative is to work together to create sustainable opportunities for peer mentoring in the Greater Springfield area, and to provide trainings, workshops and other resources to ensure the safety and mental wellness of mentees and mentors.
2. Professional Development and Commumnity Education
The YMHC offers professional development to professionals working with youth to educate about youth mental health from a cultural and social justice perspective. The coalition also offers community education open to all Springfield residents and faith-based organizations to build awareness around stress, anxiety and depression and how to identify symptoms in themselves and loved ones. View our Mental Health Training Opportunities.
3. Youth Advisors - Beat the Odds, Forget the Statistics
Beat the Odds started off as a group of youth at Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services (MLKJrFS) playing a key role in advising the YMHC. It has now changed into a group peer mentoring program and is being implemented at MLKJrFS and at the South End Community Center (SECC). BTO youth choose a mental health topic important to them and determine a project they want to work on throughout the year; with a goal of presenting it to folx in their community. In addition, BTO youth are eager to attend tabling events in Greater Springfield to spread mental health awareness and resources - like the Youth Health Survey - with their peers and community residents.
One project they started is their Instagram page where they hope to counteract the negative messages received through social media by putting out positive, uplifting content. Check them out! @413BeattheOdds.
4. Mental Health Awareness
In 2023, the YMHC will launch a mental health campaign that exmplifies that we are more than our mood, much more than what meets the surface, and that it's okay to explore our underlying feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
As we continue to work to finalize this campaign, it will include where to find mental health resources for youth, caregivers, and adult supporters, in addition to interactive resiliency tools appropriate for youth and adults alike.
Youth Mental health coalition
- Baystate Health
- Behavioral Health Network
- Springfield Office of Health and Racial Equity
- Estoy Aqui
- Gándara Center
- Mental Health Association, Inc
- New North Citizens Council
- Out Now
- Square One
Beat the Odds Youth Advisors
- Martin Luther Kind Jr. Family Services, led by Simbrit Paskins
- South End Community Center, led by Zena Murray
Peer Mentoring Collaborative
- Academic Leadership Association
- AmeriCorps: Springfield College
- AmeriCorps: DIAL/SELF Youth and Community Services
- Big Brothers, Big Sisters
- Follow my Steps
- Girls, Inc. of the Valley
- Gandara's Impact Center
- MassMentoring Partnership
- Out Now
- Project Amp
- Project Coach
- City of Springfield - Office of the Mayor
- Gandara's Impact Center
- Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services
- South End Community Center
- Springfield Public Schools
- Tools for Success Counseling
- Trust Transfer Project
Professional Development and Community Education
- African Diaspora Mental Health Association
- Baystate Health Family Advocacy Center
- Tools for Success
- Wellness for the Culture
Thank you for supporting this important work in Springfield!
For the Youth Mental Health Coalition initiatives including Youth Advisors, Peer Mentoring and Professional Development:
Massachusetts Department of Public Health Office of Problem Gambling Services
For the Communications Campaign:
Trinity Health of New England
Women's Fund of Western MA
City of Springfield