By age 15, 1 in 5 children will experience mental health distress, and because of the stigma surrounding mental health, most will not seek treatment. To end the stigma, we need to create open dialogues about it, and we can start the conversation by empowering those already addressing their own mental health needs to talk about their journey and by shining a light on the influential organizations working tirelessly to heal our communities.
One coalition we want to highlight is the SHINE Initiative in Central, MA. They work passionately and tirelessly to educate and raise awareness for child mental health as a mainstream public health issue. Since 2003, SHINE’s dedicated staff of healthcare leaders, family advocates, and community organizers have come together to partner with school-aged youth and their families to debunk misconceptions surrounding causes and solutions of psychological distress through evidence-based training tactics. Addressing this early on in children can help foster academic success, emotional safety, and future resiliency
Just how pervasive is this problem? “Half of all cases begin before age 14,” said Executive Director, Paul Richard, when discussing the magnitude of the problem. He continued to speak of SHINE’s statewide successes, both in breaking down stigma and bringing students together in the fight for acceptance, awareness, and treatment. He expressed enthusiasm over the implementation and wide-spread adoption of Student Wellness Awareness Teams (SWAT, for short) at numerous schools scattered across Central MA. In participating schools around the state, students and teachers collaborate to empower each other by using their own personal experience and creativity to elevate understanding among the student body and staff. The program has grown to include approximately 30-40 schools, a huge leap in engagement, considering that SWAT found its beginning in just six schools at the start of the program in 2016.
To accompany information and trainings that are facilitated in-person, the SHINE Initiative also provides online supplementary resources to aid education and awareness efforts via their website. Information on mental health practices, fighting stigma, and health care resources are listed in newsletter archives and a specialized mental health toolkit. Staying mindful of young people’s health should be prioritized in the public health sphere for the future welfare of our communities. If we believe in promoting healthy communities and strive to include mental health in the conversation, we can foster an environment where people can ask for help, without shame or guilt.
The Community Health Training Institute would like to thank the countless coalitions and community groups that have already done so much, and who continue to make an impact every day. The SHINE Initiative is one of the many coalitions on our coalition database that are part of a greater network of coalitions and community groups across Massachusetts doing great work like this. To add your coalition’s information to our database and join the growing community and be included in the sharing of resources, networking, and training opportunities, add your information here.
To build your coalition’s capacity, don’t forget to sign up for our June training, Coalition Building: Back to Basics!
SHINE Initiative Mental Health Toolkit:
The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health