Mental health is finally getting the attention it deserves

Mental health care is having a moment.

The stigma is easing. 

There’s bipartisan action to boost funding and ease access.

Recognition is increasing of the importance of mental health for both physical health and quality of life.

In the past 18 months, the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative – a consortium of 12 regional media and community outlets – has amplified that conversation, publishing 70 stories on mental-health issues affecting local residents and organizations as part of its Mental Wellness Project. 

Those stories have been told through “solutions journalism,” which goes beyond identifying a problem to highlighting potential solutions.

The 2023 SWMJC Mental Wellness Project produced packages of stories focusing on: the mental health of caregivers, published in March; issues around youth mental health, published in June; and mental health workforce issues, published in August.

Our final series this year is The Science and Art of Well-being: Innovations and best practices in mental health care. This package features four solutions journalism stories. They are:

• Kalamazoo’s mental health urgent care center. Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, the county’s public community mental health agency, opened the center in July and provides a 24/7 alternative to a hospital emergency department or jail for people experiencing a mental health crisis. Encore Magazine

Genetic testing to improve prescribing of psychotropic drugs. One of the biggest issues in mental health treatment is the difficulty in finding the best drug and dosage for individuals needing medication, an often-frustrating process that can take months. But clinicians are increasingly embracing a new tool – genetic testing that can help identify which drugs might work best for an individual. Southwest Michigan Second Wave

• Kalamazoo’s new BlackWellness Network. Synergy Health Center, a local provider of mental health and substance abuse services, is leading an effort to create a directory of Black and Brown health care clinicians – from therapists to primary care physicians to massage therapists – so that Black and Brown patients can find culturally competent providers. MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette

Local resources for LGBTQ youths. There’s a growing network of resources and services for young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or non-binary. That network – including online resources – is especially important for youths who live in conservative rural communities such as Three Rivers. Watershed Voice

The SWMJC is continuing its work and is considering what issues to explore in 2024. More information at  

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