The Hackett Center News, September 2023 – MMHPI – Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute
Curated Topics, Community Voices

The Hackett Center Newsletter, September 2023

Welcome to our latest edition, featuring topics, news, and people that are shaping how we are putting policy into practice throughout Greater Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.

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Message from Dr. Quianta Moore

This issue of The Hackett Center Newsletter covers the topic of youth suicide. Please take care of yourself as you decide whether to continue reading. We hope that this information highlights opportunities for awareness, action, and prevention.

Our purpose in raising awareness about rising youth suicide rates is to offer trusted information on the severity of and disparities within this crisis. We also offer hope in the effectiveness of prevention and in the resilience that organizations and families in our communities display in the face of troubling trends.

We all play an important part in preventing youth suicide. Strong, supportive relationships between youth and trusted adults are critical for healthy development. As we better understand the needs of youth today, we can reach out and connect to them in ways that respect their stage of life and help protect them from feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. As a community, we can intentionally identify and support youth who are struggling and work to prevent the loss of life by suicide.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide or in crisis, help is available. Dial or text the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. Help is available in English and Spanish.

To learn more ways to prepare and respond, check out these resources from The American Academy of Pediatrics or 988.

Multidimendional Grief Therapy Author Julie Kaplow-Kline-Kline (small)
In Focus

Working Together to End Youth Suicide

Suicide is a major public health issue in the United States. It is the 11th leading cause of death nationwide with 48,183 deaths in 2021 – a 36% increase since 2000. According to the Youth Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, in 2021, 22% of high school students considered suicide, 18% made a suicide plan, and 10% attempted suicide.

Suicide prevalence has increased significantly within communities of color over the past four years. The soaring rates of death by suicide for Black youth are particularly alarming, as the current pattern deviates from historical trends and overwhelmingly includes younger children. From 2000 to 2020, Black youth ages 10-19 experienced a 78% increase in suicide rates, which is by far the largest increase across all races and ethnicities. In a research study among children ages 5-12, Black youth had higher rates of attempts and were approximately twice as likely to die by suicide than white youth.

Communities and systems of care can help reverse this trend. We know that people with mental health disorders, such as depression, are at increased risk for suicide. However, we also know that early screening and intervention are effective at mitigating suicide risk. Among youth, it is important that mental health and suicide are discussed openly and in ways that help youth feel comfortable disclosing if they are thinking about suicide. Talking about suicide does not increase risk. Instead, identifying and engaging at-risk youth in effective prevention efforts is essential to decreasing suicide attempts and deaths.

Adolescents and young adults experience a window of neuroplasticity from ages 15-24 in which brain development happens rapidly and easily. Healthy brain development in this period is positively affected by trusting and responsive relationships with adult caregivers and others who interact frequently with adolescents and young adults, including teachers, coaches, parents, pastors, friends. Adults are powerful agents of suicide prevention when they listen to, are patient with, and form respectful, safe relationships with youth and young adults.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide or in crisis, help is available. Dial or text the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. Help is available in English and Spanish.

To learn more ways to prepare and respond, check out these resources from The American Academy of Pediatrics or 988.

Project Highlights

Support HUB: Improving Youth & Family Mental Health

The Support HUB adopts a socio-ecological approach, acknowledging the interplay between individuals, families, communities, and systems in shaping mental health outcomes for young people.

Too often, traditional approaches to youth mental health care are focused on only the young person who is struggling instead of also focusing on the needs and dynamics of adult caregivers and other family members. This initiative introduces a comprehensive program aimed at addressing the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of youth and their families. Simultaneously, it enhances the community ecosystem to naturally support mental health by providing navigation services and boosting mental health awareness through community education programming. Through strategic partnerships with churches, community centers, and schools, the Support HUB ensures accessibility and relevance for young individuals in diverse community settings.

This approach recognizes that a child’s mental health is deeply intertwined with the well-being of their family members and the broader community context in which they live. Through upstream preventive methods and a socio-ecological approach that supports the individual, their family, and their community, we believe we can alleviate the strain on mental health resources and foster a healthier, more supportive environment for all members of the community. Our objective is to prevent the escalation of child and family socioemotional challenges into more serious issues, thus alleviating the strain on mental health resources long term.

To accomplish our mission, we employ two key approaches:

  1. Enhancing mental health awareness through community education events and training of volunteer Mental Health Ambassadors to promote mental wellness within the community.
  2. Providing comprehensive navigation support for entire family units to enhance access to mental health and community support services through trained Child and Family Consultants (CFCs). This support includes intake, assessment, referral, guidance through various systems of care, monitoring, and follow-up. The family’s intake assessment, conducted in person at a location chosen by them, will utilize standardized instruments to measure resiliency, self-esteem, healthy social and familial relationships, and social determinants of health.
Partner Spotlight

The Jed Foundation (JED) Partners to Expand Work in Texas

The Jed Foundation (JED), the leading national nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults, announced recently that it is the recipient of a $1 million grant from the WoodNext Foundation, the same Foundation supporting the Wood Mental Health Youth Program. In active partnership with Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, and the Hackett Center in Houston, the grant allows JED to scale its schools-based mental health systems work in Texas.

JED’s school programs, JED Campus and JED High School, are rooted in the evidence-based Comprehensive Approach to Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention that has been proven effective in creating cultures of care and positively impacting behaviors and attitudes related to mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention.

JED’s new Texas regional team will work collaboratively with local high schools and colleges to assess and strengthen their mental health programs to ensure the needs of all students are served. For more information related to JED’s work in Texas, reach out to the Regional Director, Felicia Martin, [email protected], for more details.

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Bright Spot

Unexpected Parenting Challenges, A Story from Marcy Melvin, MA, LPC

The following Power of Parenting series is co-sponsored by the New York Life Foundation and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. In partnership with researchers, clinicians, and individuals with lived experience, Dr. Julie Kaplow-Kline-Kline developed these resources to help parents and caregivers support children facing bereavement, including in the context of the pandemic.