MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H awarded $350,000 to support youth mental health and wellbeing in communities across Michigan

Funding provided by the Michigan Community Service Commission will help to launch the Michigan 4-H HealthCorps AmeriCorps program.

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Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash.

Michigan State University Extension is partnering with the Michigan Community Service Commission to launch a new youth mental health and wellbeing project. The project will place AmeriCorps members throughout Michigan to provide educational programming to children and youth with the goal of increasing positive coping skills, self-care strategies, and health practices to support mental and physical wellbeing. The effort is supported by grants from AmeriCorps and the Michigan Community Service Commission totaling more than $350,000.

The need for the program is evident as children and adolescents in Michigan, and throughout the U.S., are experiencing alarming increases in the prevalence of mental, emotional and physical health conditions. At the same time, many youth and their families face barriers to accessing professional care and support. A 2021 publication from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan found that more than a third of Michigan's youth experiencing mental illness were not receiving behavioral health services as a result of provider shortages, service maldistribution, stigma, transportation and payment barriers.

In addition, the rates and prevalence of mental health challenges among BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) youth, LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual) youth, youth with disabilities, and youth from other disadvantaged groups have shown sharp increases in recent years. An article published in April 2022 in the journal Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America highlights some of the reasons for the "disproportionate increase in rates of psychiatric illness among BIPOC youth, including deaths by suicide," which include white supremacy, structurally racist policy decisions, structural racism, interpersonal racism and internalized racism, concluding that "all levels of racism detrimentally impact BIPOC youth, worsening mental health outcomes."

The Trevor Project's 2023 U.S National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People highlights the state of mental health for LGBTQ youth in the country and the need for additional support services. The report found that 67% of LGBTQ young people reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety, 54% experienced symptoms of depression, and over half of LGBTQ young people who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it (56%).

The Michigan 4-H HealthCorps AmeriCorps program will utilize research-based curriculum and trainings based in positive youth development principles to help address the critical health and mental health need of Michigan youth. AmeriCorps members will be recruited, trained and placed in communities throughout the state to deliver valuable educational programming and experiences to Michigan youth and families. AmeriCorps members will establish and lead 4-H clubs, host family engagements events, and facilitate trainings on topics related to substance use/misuse prevention, health/mental health literacy, sleep health/literacy, mindfulness, self-care and healthy living.

The project aims to serve 1,500 youth in the first year of implementation, with a special emphasis on serving youth involved in the juvenile justice system, immigrant and refugee youth, LGBTQIA+ youth, youth in foster care, youth with disabilities, youth living in poverty and BIPOC youth.

For more information on MSU Extension’s healthy living programming and educational efforts for youth, visit our 4-H Healthy Youth website. To learn more about the Michigan 4-H HealthCorps AmeriCorps program, please contact Brian Wibby, MSU Extension educator, at or 906-439-5065.

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