Webinar Recap: Overcoming Stigma and Expanding Access to Mental Health Support for K-12 Youth

This blog covers the key themes discussed by the panelists throughout the recent webinar, Overcoming Stigma and Expanding Access to Mental Health Support for K-12 Youth.
5 Minutes
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Updated
Published
January 29, 2024

In this one-hour panel discussion, our expert panelists highlighted the challenges youth often face when seeking mental health care and how these hurdles can impact their well-being. Specifically, they discussed the impact of stigma, the importance of culturally humble care, the role of schools in offering healthcare services, the power of music, and how to engage youth in boosting their health literacy.

Watch the recording!

Panelists included Olajide Williams, MD, MS, Founder and Board Member, Hip Hop Public Health; Travis Gayles, MD, Ph.D., Chief Health Officer, Hazel Health; and Lori Rose Benson, Executive Director and CEO, Hip Hop Public Health.

This blog covers the key themes discussed by the panelists throughout the webinar. 

Olajide Williams, MD, MS, Travis Gayles, MD, Ph.D., and Lori Rose Benson

Recognizing and addressing common barriers

Several barriers hinder young people from accessing mental health care. Common barriers include recognizing the existence of a problem, reluctance to seek help, financial constraints in affording services, and the challenge of overcoming the stigma associated with seeking mental health support. 

“It’s crucial to identify opportunities for conversations to de-stigmatize mental health discussions, similar to how we have progressed with physical health conversations.” - Lori Rose Benson

Addressing these barriers is possible through raising awareness, breaking down stigma, and implementing mental health services that adapt and scale to meet the needs of diverse communities. 

Stigma awareness and the role of the household

Children start developing a sense of stigma related to mental health as young as six years old. Their views on seeking mental health care are molded by their environment and the reactions and experiences of those around them.

The home plays a crucial role as an initial learning environment, defining what is considered acceptable in addressing mental health issues. It significantly shapes a child's perception of seeking mental health support. The observations and cues young people pick up from the adults in their lives profoundly influence how they perceive seeking help and engaging in discussions about mental health.

Racism and mental health 

Studies show that 1 in 5 African American 5th graders experience racism and discrimination. Racism and discrimination increase risk factors for anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are more concentrated in communities facing socioeconomic hardship. ACEs often lead to a more significant burden of mental illness among children, manifesting as not only psychological issues but also physiological and epigenetic implications, such as alterations to the underlying DNA sequence, which potentially affects future generations. 

“At early ages, signs of stress, depression, and anxiety can manifest as physical symptoms. Young people might express discomfort through complaints like bellyaches or headaches, signaling mental health challenges that they can’t articulate.” - Dr. Olajide

The role of schools in early intervention

“I believe the school environment is pivotal for addressing mental health.” - Lori Rose Benson

Many school districts incorporate school-based clinics supported by hospitals or health departments. These clinics provide a crucial opportunity to screen and identify students at risk for mental health issues. 

“Although it is not prescriptive, it is important to integrate health education strategies into the classroom.” Lori Rose Benson

Quality education includes infusing techniques that help young people manage toxic stress, cope with difficult emotions, and normalize seeking mental health support. Incorporating physical activity breaks, mindful breathing exercises, and various modalities such as music, dance, and art thoughtfully can greatly benefit youth of all ages.  

Building trust and engagement among youth

“We know that children, especially today, are inundated with options that can really down their attention. It’s why we say that attention is one of the most precious commodities of the modern age.” - Dr. Olajide

Hip Hop Public Health advocates for a multi-sensory approach to address the challenge of engaging young minds. Utilizing culturally tailored and exciting material is key. The full spectrum of hip-hop engages children in health literacy issues, incorporating art, music, and poetry in rhythms and rhythms. 

Music has unique neuroscientific properties, which often have a greater impact on learning when compared to language. This understanding reinforces the commitment to leveraging music and other culturally resonant elements to communicate complex health topics effectively and foster health literacy among young children.

The therapeutic properties of music

Music holds undeniable therapeutic power and a profound influence on our lives. Music plays a multifaceted role, whether a calming balm, an energizing force, or an inspiration. Its broad representation in the brain attests to its therapeutic benefits.

Beyond its therapeutic properties, music enhances learning and retention. We can all recall learning our ABCs through song. Music can evoke memories, making it a powerful therapeutic tool.

Addressing stress and anxiety on topics like gun safety

“I think we have to acknowledge that kids are going through things, and what they are going through is very different from what we experienced at their age. It’s important to legitimize their experience.” - Dr. Travis Gayles

In terms of stress and anxiety around active shooter drills, we have to recognize that the tools that worked for us decades ago may not be practical or realistic for today’s current climate. 

For example, Ian Ellis James, an advisory board member of Hip Hop Public Health, addresses the topic of guns through his “A Gun is Not Fun’ series of early reader books and animated content. This series adopts a non-threatening, low-stress approach to bring awareness to a serious topic among young children.

Thank you to our panelists

Thank you to our expert panelists for leading this important discussion!

Through innovative services and support from organizations such as Hip Hop Public Health, we can begin to break down the barriers and stigma related to youth mental health and increase access to quality care. 

Additional resources

“It’s crucial for all of us, as teachers, school superintendents, guidance counselors, and parents, to be mentally health-literate. Before extending help to others, we must first focus on ourselves.” - Dr. Olajide

We must possess the knowledge and awareness to support our children. Mental health literacy is a vital skill for everyone.

For a free resource to strengthen health literacy, check out Mental Health First Aid

 Learn more about Hip Hip Public Health

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About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel’s diverse, culturally competent providers specialize in the health challenges of children and teens and partner with parents and school staff to make the best care decisions for students. Hazel is committed to improving health care equity and is available regardless of family income, geography, insurance status, or ability to pay. Hazel’s mission is to transform children’s access to health care, because when students feel better, they learn better.

Learn more at hazel.co.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel's diverse, culturally competent providers work with parents and school staff to transform children's access to health care, because when students feel better, they learn better.

Learn more at hazel.co.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel serves nearly 2 million students across 100 school districts, helping to reduce chronic absenteeism and unfinished learning by addressing gaps in health care access. As an extension of the school health team, Hazel helps schools immediately address student physical and mental health care needs. Hazel’s mission is to transform children’s access to health care because when students feel better, they learn better.

Learn more at Hazel.co/hazel-in-schools.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Hazel helps school districts address chronic absenteeism, unfinished learning, and school enrollment, by addressing gaps in health care access.

Learn more at Hazel.co/hazel-in-schools.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts and families to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. Instead of waiting for an appointment with a doctor or therapist, children can see a Hazel provider for a telehealth visit, at no cost to families. With guardian permission, Hazel’s telehealth platform allows children to connect with a health care provider within minutes, or a therapist within days of referral. Hazel’s providers can help with everything from allergies and stomach aches to anxiety and depression. With Hazel, children can get the care they need when they need it.

Learn more at Hazel.co/how-hazel-works.

About Hazel

Hazel Health, the leader in school-based telehealth, partners with school districts and families to provide mental and physical health services to K-12 students where they are–at school or home. At no cost, and regardless of insurance status, Hazel’s providers can help with everything from allergies and stomach aches to anxiety and depression. With Hazel, children can get the care they need when they need it.

Learn more at Hazel.co/how-hazel-works.

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