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Springfield launches youth mental health campaign

The Springfield Youth Mental Health Coalition is starting an awareness campaign to normalize healthy conversations about stress, anxiety and depression for young adults in the city.

The Coalition is training their youth advisors on using accurate behavioral health terminology to inform their peers about how to process difficult emotions.

Sabrinna Marshall, 18, is a youth advisor who stressed the need for more mental health resources in Black and brown communities in Springfield.

One of the ads created by students for the  "I Am More Than My Mood", a new mental health awareness campaign launched by the Springfield Youth Mental Health Coalition.
Elizabeth Román
/
NEPM
One of the ads created by students for the "I Am More Than My Mood", a new mental health awareness campaign launched by the Springfield Youth Mental Health Coalition.

"Only one-third of Black women receive mental health care," she said. "You do have to focus on your emotions, its not something that you hide. And not always you have to put on the strong Black woman mask."

The coalition was spearheaded by the city as well as the Public Health Institute of Western MA.

Officials said the goal of the "I Am More Than My Mood" campaign is to normalize healthy conversations about mental health and encourage youth and adults and caregivers to discuss stress, anxiety, and depression as common challenges that everyone goes through. The campaign directs people to morethanmymood.org for resources.

Data from Springfield youth health surveys illustrate the need for expanding and destigmatizing youth mental health services locally.

In 2019, more than a third of eighth-grade students reported sustained sadness or hopelessness that impacted their usual activities. This rate was particularly high among female and LGBTQ+ students. Another round of surveying is currently underway in Springfield Public Schools.

On Friday the coalition launched the campaign at the Community School of Music on State Street.

Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno attended and said the group has been working hard to come up with a meaningful campaign that will impact the city's youth.

"When you're a young person people say 'get over it,' and 'what do you have to worry about?'" he said. "So this campaign is very timely. Mental health has always been an issue but COVID-19 and the pandemic has exacerbated the issue."

He said when a young person doesn't feel heard or understood it can lead to things like alcohol abuse, self-harm and even suicide.

"We all have family and friends who have gone through this. Some have been able to deal with it and some, unfortunately, have not," he said.

Note: Full disclosure, the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, which runs the coalition, is an underwriter of New England Public Media, but this affiliation does not affect how we cover the news.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.