M.I.N.D.S.: A Youth-Led Emotional Well-Being Initiative in Minnesota
April 22, 2020

Lyndsey Reece, DHA
Child and Teen Checkups Coordinator, Rice County Public Health (Minnesota)

The Minnesota Adolescent and Young Adult Behavioral Health (AYA BH) CoIIN Team has prioritized youth engagement as a part of their work to improve the rates of depression screenings among AYAs ages 12-24 in their state. One of the team’s most recent youth engagement endeavors centers around partnership with a youth-led group called “Moving In New DirectionS (M.I.N.D.S.)”. M.I.N.D.S. is a team of 12 high-school aged youth from four schools in Rice County, MN that were recruited through a partnership between public health and a school counselor. M.I.N.D.S. aims to partner with the MN CoIIN team on tackling the following goals: 1) educating adolescent and young adults that they have a voice and how to use it, 2) shining a light on mental health to break stigma, and 3) communicate with the community on how to support adolescents and young adults

The first order of business for the group was to brand themselves and hammer out an action plan for how they wanted to achieve their goals. The M.I.N.D.S. team came up with their group name, a logo, and a work plan to shine the light on AYA mental health in Rice County. For the group, “shining a light on mental health” means to reducing stigma and showing that it is normal to face mental health concerns. The youth believe that raising awareness of mental health will help knock down barriers to accessing mental health supports that they see throughout the community.

Next on their agenda, M.I.N.D.S. plans to survey adolescent and young adult students from their four high schools on several questions regarding their perceptions of and personal experience with mental health as well as their personal experiences with mental health screenings in community clinic setting. The M.I.N.D.S. team is also are looking to receive training on advocacy skills for taking charge of their health during primary care visits. The M.I.N.D.S. youth are also planning a mental wellness event within the community for their peers in all schools as a way to support their goal to break the stigma associated with mental health challenges.

videoconference.pngTo keep momentum up during the current social distancing brought on by COVID-19, Rice County public health and the M.I.N.D.S team are planning to continue their work by utilizing Google Classroom as an online platform for organizing and storing their team documents and communications. In lieu of in-person meetings, the group is meeting online using Google Hangouts as regularly as they did pre-social distancing. During each virtual convening, the public health team kicks of each meeting by checking in with each of the M.I.N.D.S. team members to ensure they are receiving the resources they need to maintain their overall well-being during the pandemic. After the initial check-in, M.I.N.D.S. members take the reigns of the conversation and strategize on how best to keep this important work moving forward. During their last meeting, the M.I.N.D.S. team decided their immediate next step will be to invite relevant community organizations to join their virtual meetings as a way to begin partnership building in preparation for a time when it will be possible to gather again in-person. The M.I.N.D.S. youth also expressed interest in connecting with their school and clinical leadership to provide expertise on how adults can be supportive to youth during this time. Although the pandemic has created unprecedented barriers for community organizing, the Minnesota AYA-BH CoIIN team and their M.I.N.D.S. partners are finding ways to make progress despite the challenges.