Newton Municipal School District and Central Mississippi Residential Center

Duration of partnership: 4 years
3 volunteers
Impacts 600 students

The Youth Mental Health Day program is an educational community health outreach program that bridges a gap in youth mental health care services.  Students travel to Central Mississippi Residential Center’s facility during school hours, once as 8th graders and again as 10th graders, to learn about topics including suicide prevention, dating violence, and alcohol and drug abuse prevention.
The students involved in Youth Mental Health Day live in rural areas and are impacted by racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities, which only serve to increase the stigma associated with receiving mental health care. Survey results indicate that the program has had a positive influence on the behaviors of the participants. It also has improved their understanding of mental illness and the importance of seeking help for themselves and others.
Schools report that they have observed an improvement in academic performance and an increase in coping skills as well as a decrease in behavior-related office referrals.
To enhance their outreach, CMRC developed a plan to present a suicide prevention program using evidenced-based SOS program and invited local students to their facility. CMRC asked area mental health providers and law enforcement to set up informational displays and interact with the students To augment this experience, licensed counselors are available for immediate intervention onsite during the program.
Inviting students to the facility helps break down the barriers associated with talking about mental health issues and address the stereotypes associated with mental health facilities. First-person interaction allows students to make connections between their experiences and community resources. Since its inception fours years ago, the program has grown from 400 to 3,000 students.