Supporting youth mental health and well-being
Concerns for youth mental health in Wisconsin precede the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019, Wisconsin high school students reported feeling sad and hopeless; had thoughts of suicide; or felt anxious, tense, or scared. Many also reported having few resources to help them address mental health issues.
The University of Wisconsin Extension responded to the issue with programs for students such as Youth Mental Health First Aid, Supporting Youth Mental Health and Learning to Breathe. Youth Mental Health First Aid is an evidence-supported program designed to teach participants how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing challenges with mental health or harmful addictions. Extension developed Supporting Youth Mental Health, a shorter gatekeeper course, for 4-H staff and volunteers. It combines asynchronous and live training to teach signs and symptoms of a mental health challenge, simple skills and strategies to build trusting relationships, and how talk to a youth who is struggling emotionally. Extension also provided direct education to youth on how to cope with stress with the evidence-based program, Learning to Breathe. It is a mindfulness-based curriculum intended to strengthen attention and emotion regulation, cultivate wholesome emotions like gratitude and compassion, expand the repertoire of stress management skills and help participants integrate mindfulness into daily life.
Across all youth mental health programming, adults learned about the signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis and how to help an adolescent who is in crisis. Learners reported more confidence and likelihood to act when noticing a youth is having a mental health crisis or challenge. Extension’s programming also helped youths learn skills that would help them with stress. Teaching youths stress coping skills is even more critical in rural areas where there are mental health provider shortages.
Link to full statement on website: http://landgrantimpacts.tamu.edu/impacts/show/6246