HCN News & Notes

Public Health Institute, MiraVista Launch Awareness Effort Around Teen Mental Health

PIONEER VALLEY — MiraVista Behavioral Health Center and the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts (PHIWM) are partnering to highlight young people’s emotional wellness in their campaign, “Adolescent Mental Health Doesn’t Take a Vacation.”

“We know from both national and state data that poor mental health continues to be on the increase among young people,” said Kimberley Lee, MiraVista’s chief of Creative Strategy and Development. “Being away from school friends and school supports during the extended summer break can be isolating for some teens. Our campaign is designed to remind parents, trusted adult caregivers, community providers, as well as adolescents that help is available when someone is struggling emotionally and to remember they are not alone.”

Lee said weekly social-media posts will carry short messaging such as “there’s no shame in having feelings or seeking help to deal with them” and “ask your teen how they are doing and take time to listen without judgment.”

“Sometimes an emotional issue can be resolved through good communication between adult caregivers and child, and sometimes it may require a call to the child’s pediatrician or call to a mental-healthcare provider,” Lee said. “Various evidence-based treatments are available. Adults who model taking care of their own mental health can make it easier for a teen in need of such help to seek it. This is also one of the campaign’s messages.”

Jessica Collins, executive director of the PHIWM, added that “it is important to blend community prevention and clinical support by partnering with MiraVista Behavioral Health Center on this crucial campaign. Adolescence is a critical time for mental-health development, and ensuring young people have access to support during the summer months is particularly important.

“Youth health surveys conducted across Western Massachusetts have generally seen an increase over time in students reporting depressive symptoms, with more than two out of five students doing so in 2023,” Collins added. “We hope this campaign will help inform parents, guardians, and the community about ways to promote good mental health and the resources available to our young people.”

Dr. Kathleen Szegda, senior director of Community Research and Evaluation at PHIWM, recently led efforts to develop the Youth Mental Health Roadmap for Western Massachusetts.

“This campaign aligns with many of the recommendations outlined in the Roadmap, particularly the focus on prevention,” she said. “Promoting positive mental-health practices and destigmatizing mental-health conditions is key to improving the mental health of our young people.”