Mental health issues among Americans have continued to soar throughout the pandemic, and our nation’s youth are no exception. Thanks to over $3 million in recent grants, the Indiana University School of Medicine’s Indiana Behavioral Health Access Program for Youth, known as Be Happy, will be able to help more children and families facing mental health challenges. The new funding will support IU experts who help pediatricians catch and address mental health concerns early and improve access to treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge stressor for all of our lives, and in particular the lives of children and adolescents, leading to new and worsening mental health concerns, says Dr. Rachel Yoder, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and co-director of Indiana Be Happy. Many families have difficulty accessing mental health care and generally first seek help from their pediatricians, so by providing immediate consultation, child mental health providers within the program can help pediatricians catch and address mental health concerns early and improve access to evidence-based treatment, Yoder says. This funding allows the Be Happy program to increase availability and accessibility of statewide pediatric mental health care teams through telehealth consultation and referral services for primary-care providers and youth-serving professionals; allows team leaders to conduct web-based continuing education sessions; and will provide technical assistance and information to primary-care providers on timely detection, assessment, treatment and referral of children and adolescents with mental health disorders. The Be Happy program will focus on rural and other underserved areas to better address health inequity related to racial, ethnic and geographic disparities in access to care. It will also increase provider access to resources and increase the ability of children, youth and families to use those resources.
In other news, Traditional Arts Indiana, a statewide program based at IU Bloomington, is using the arts to better the lives of Indiana elders through the Everyday Arts and Aging project, a new effort to create a guide for the public that highlights diverse ways of aging in urban areas. Ageism is a huge problem across the world, but especially in the United States, says Jon Kay, director of Traditional Arts Indiana and an associate professor of folklore and ethnomusicology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. One of the ways to fighting ageism is lifting up the lives of older adults and changing the way elders are seen in the community, he says. The Everyday Arts and Aging project aims to help elders in and around Indianapolis use creative and expressive activities to expand their social connectedness, mental and physical engagement, and feelings of personal mastery. We are working with communities of urban elders as well as elders in immigrant communities, he says, and the goal is to produce a guide that allows everyone to see themselves represented and find resources that speak to them. The guide will ultimately be used by libraries, senior centers and care facilities, but will also be available to individuals around the country.