Kentucky Schools Invited to Participate in Research Project on Mental Health Stigma

(Note: This guest column was written by Dr. Stephen O’Connor, a faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Louisville and associate director of the University of Louisville Depression Center)

The KHC has embarked on a unique research project with students from duPont Manual High School, Somerset High School, and Sayre School to better understand the factors that contribute to mental health stigma among high school students in the Commonwealth. The KHC previously featured an overview of this work in a blog entry by Allison Tu, founder of  the Student Alliance for Mental Health Innovation and Action (StAMINA). In that blog post, Allison described a three-phase approach, beginning with a needs assessment and student conference, followed by an action phase in fall 2018.

Through the generous support of a grant from GE Appliances, we have been able to move forward with Allison and her team to conduct a statewide needs assessment on the topic of mental health stigma in high school students. Allison and a few other trained students who are part of her research team aim to conduct 10 focus groups with high school youth that each last 1-1.5 hours. We believe that the youth-driven aspect of this study helps ensure that their collective voices are heard when we consider how best to support their mental health concerns. I am helping the StAMINA team conduct the study and will lead five separate focus groups with parents to gain insights into their perspectives on contributors to mental health stigma in high school youth. We will use the focus group data to identify themes about barriers for youth with mental health concerns to access available resources, as well as their preferences for support by family, friends, and the larger community.

This is where we need your help. We are trying to cast a wide net in recruiting students and parents from different schools across our state to participate in focus groups so that they can share their thoughts on what factors contribute to mental health stigma. If you know of a contact in your local school system, such as a Superintendent, Principal, or Vice Principal, who might be in a position to support their high school’s participation in our study, please reach out to us. We are hoping to complete all of our focus groups by May 2018 in order to analyze our results and finalize a written report on our findings this summer. Adhering to this timeline will enable Allison and her team to move forward with the action phase of their project, where students step forward to address mental health stigma in new and innovative ways in our state.

Please contact Kaitlyn McClain at kmcclain@khcollaborative.org of (502) 238-3603 if you would like to learn more about the StAMINA needs assessment and how you might be able to help us identify interested schools.