Healthy Teen Minds

Healthy Teen Minds is an eight-year initiative to improve the mental health of teens in our tri-county region – Outagamie, Calumet and Winnebago counties. The work is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin (AHW) Endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The funding is part of AHW’s initiative focused on improving community behavioral health.

The goal of the project is to reduce the rate of depression among teens by implementing population-level strategies that focus on prevention, promoting resiliency and coping skills among youth, and interventions for struggling teens.

The Healthy Teen Minds Project, a grant-funded initiative of the Northeast Wisconsin Mental Health Connection, is working to improve the mental health of ALL teenagers in the tri-county region  (Outagamie, Winnebago and Calumet counties) using an upstream approach to mental health promotion and suicide prevention.

Healthy Teen Minds, in partnership with The Boys & Girls Club of the Fox Valley and the UW-Extension – Winnebago County, is working with area high schools to implement Sources of Strength, a mental health wellness program that utilizes the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture to ultimately prevent suicide, bullying, violence, and substance abuse. It’s one of the nation’s most rigorously researched peer leader programs and is presently on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices.

With funding support from Medical College of Wisconsin’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Endowment, The Connection is making Sources of Strength more affordable and accessible for high schools in the region to adopt. Having developed a regional “trained trainer” model, the Healthy Teen Minds project now has its own nationally certified regional trainers, reducing the cost of implementation by 75 percent, to roughly $4,000 per school for a three-year implementation.

So far, 17 area high schools have joined this initiative and have adopted Sources of Strength. The Connection is now inviting high schools in Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties to join its fourth cohort of schools to implement the program during 2020-21 school year.  For more information, contact Wendy Magas, Project Coordinator, at wendy@newmentalhealthconnection.org

Other strategies include adopting social-emotional learning in elementary and middle schools, supporting and expanding school-based mental health initiatives, and a teen sleep campaign to raise awareness about the importance of adolescent sleep. An early success of the project is the launch of MyConnectionNEW.org, a new mental health service navigation website that includes a complete listing of all mental health and substance use services and supports in the region, making it easier for tri-county residents to connect to services.

In the coming years of implementation, we will be working on strategies that will touch vast numbers of children and youth in the tri-county area. Our strategies include screening for mental illness, social-emotional learning, connecting to services, and increasing social connectedness.

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