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Michigan nonprofit receives boost in funding for youth mental health

By Tammy Pitts - MNA Director of Communications

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on youth mental health with hospitals nationwide reporting an increase in kids battling anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation due in part to the stress of the pandemic. But even before Covid-19,  mental health problems such as anxiety and depression were already on the rise among children ages 6 to 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that is why nonprofits like CARE of Southeastern Michigan and the services it offers are so important. The nonprofit recently received a $50,000 grant and will use the funds to support youth mental health. “Some of the issues that teens and youth are experiencing are isolation from their friends and activities, and they have had to redefine their rites of passage and their caregivers are experiencing an increase in stress,” said Susan Styf, MNA member, and president and CEO of CARE.

The grant was awarded to CARE by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association Charitable Foundation (DADA)--a known supporter of nonprofits and activities that assist children and youth. Styf says the funding will support its Student Assistance Center and will allow them to expand services to increase both in-person and virtual counseling for students amidst the pandemic. The Student Assistance Center has been serving school districts in Macomb County since 1982 and offers a variety of programs and services for young people including assessments and screenings for children and adolescents, resources, prevention, and life skills for both in and out of the classroom, and mental health.

Styf says CARE serves over 40,000 people each year through its programs and about 30% are under the age of 18. She says she has seen a spike in depression among youth over the last year. “There has been an increase in both depression and anxiety in our youth since the pandemic began,” Styf stated. “Surveys of parents indicate that about 75% of parents are reporting some impact to their child’s behavioral health. Fortunately, children are extremely resilient, and it is important to support mental health efforts to build resiliency. CARE is providing coping skills to build resiliency.”

While the pandemic has deepened mental health challenges for youth people, therapy is important because it gives children the opportunity to talk to someone outside of their home. “Counseling provides a neutral outlet to discuss feelings and concerns,” Styf explained. “Kids may be weary of communicating their feelings to protect their already stressed caregivers.” And even as it appears that life is returning to normal, the trauma from the pandemic hasn’t subsided for some children. “Families are experiencing an increase in stress and potentially grief and loss,” Styf said. “This can cause a change in eating habits, sleep disturbances, sudden mood shifts, trouble concentrating and restlessness.”

Mental health and wellness resources are not always accessible to youth, particularly young people of color, but CARE has removed financial roadblocks and barriers for youth in the county who need counseling and other services. “The cost of the services is covered by a contract the school district has with CARE, as well as the grant from the DADA,” says Styf. “There is no cost to the student or family.”  

The CARE Student Assistance Center serves students ranging from preschool through high school. For more information, visit here.