May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

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Just like everyone has “health”, everyone has “mental health.” Over the course a person’s lifetime, they may not experience mental illness, but they will likely experience challenges with their mental well-being (i.e., their mental health). Since 1948, the month of May is has become a time to reflect on mental health, fight stigmas and highlight the mental health issues of people across the country.

According to Mental Health America, 18 percent of American adults experience some kind of mental illness. In addition, 9.7 percent of American youth suffer from severe depression, an increase of .5 percent over last year, and statistics show that youth mental health is on the decline.

With 60 percent of adults reporting unmet needs for treatment of mental health, and 60 percent of youth with depression not receiving any treatment at all, it is evident that we need change.

Seventeen of our Well Connected Communities coalitions are working on projects to increase mental health awareness, including working with youth, breaking stigmas, and addressing substance abuse among both youth and adults. In October 2020, the youth of our West Virginia University communities, put together their first ever youth-led Snowflake Conference, where 19 youth came together to discuss issues of mental health awareness among their peers, especially during the pandemic. Their success with this conference has led many of our other communities to explore replicating the effort in their own areas.

Understanding and maintaining mental health is a large part of overall well-being. With the right community and individual supports and tools, life-long health and well-being can be within everyone’s reach.

National 4-H Council Joins White House COVID-19 Community Corps

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced additional measures to encourage vaccinations and increase vaccine confidence as part of the next phase of its COVID-19 public education campaign. The Administration is launching the COVID-19 Community Corps – a nationwide, grassroots network of local voices people know and trust to encourage Americans to get vaccinated. As part of the launch of the Community Corps, Vice President Kamala Harris and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will meet with founding members on Thursday, April 1, as she begins championing the next phase of the public education campaign from the White House.

National 4-H Council joins the Community Corps, which is comprised of trusted voices in communities across the country. The Administration will regularly share updated public health information and resources for the corps members to use with their communities to help get friends, family, and followers vaccinated.

Read the full press release from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Youth Address Community Mental Health by Creating a “Snowflake” Conference in West Virginia

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A youth team from two West Virginia communities who attended the 2020 National Healthy Living Summit planned and coordinated a conference to address mental health. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on events and gatherings, youth pivoted their planning and logistics for the Snowflake Conference to a virtual platform.  health equity in their communities. They created and the Snowflake Conference project and came up with session topics and conference logistics. On October 10, 2020, 19 youth and 11 adults attended the virtual conference to address mental health as a health disparity in their communities.  According to the participants, youth agreed that as a result of successfully implementing this conference, they are confident in their abilities to plan and execute an idea about community change with opportunity for disseminating the project as a pilot and small-scale model. There are plans for longer-term post conference evaluation, but some responses from a short post conference survey indicate that participants gained insights about their own uniqueness and the importance of mental health. Respondents also strongly agreed or somewhat agreed they learned more about resources for mental health, gained a greater understanding what mindfulness is, and they feel better about communicating during conflicts.  Three counties have expressed interest in replicating this concept their communities and ideas generated by this youth-led virtual conference have inspired state-level Extension committees on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging to begin making plans for a similar youth-led statewide summit.

Meigs County Youth-Adult Team Presents at National Volunteer Conference

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Well Connected Community members from Meigs County, Tennessee delivered a panel presentation on “Youth Volunteers Leading Community Change” as part of the National Extension Conference on Volunteerism in Billings, Montana from May 14-16, 2019.

Meagen Brown, Extension Agent for 4-H and Family Consumer Science, led the group which included Connye Rowland, Community Health Coordinator for Meigs County Public Schools, and 4-H teen leaders Keyshawn Tatum and Austin Blackmon. Together they told the story of their Well Connected Community project that went from having no teens involved to teens taking the lead. National 4-H Healthy Living Project Director, JoAnne Leatherman, set the stage for their story by telling about Well Connected Communities where 13 pilot states are working with 3 communities each to develop Community Wellness Councils and address a prioritized leading health issue.

There were 275 Extension staff and community partners from all over the country to learn best practices and research related to recruiting, training, recognizing and sustaining volunteers in Cooperative Extension Programs at the biannual event. Besides attending the conference, the Meigs County group visited Yellowstone National Park, and learned much about Western US culture and geography.