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Promoting Mental Health and Resilience in Youth

Promoting Mental Health and Resilience in Youth
October 10, 2016

The Center for Childhood Resilience, housed at Lurie Children’s, is working to address mental health needs from a public health perspective.

“We focus on helping people who work with youth better understand and use prevention strategies, early identification and clinical interventions that we know really work,” explains the Center’s Director, Colleen Cicchetti, PhD. “The primary goal is to expand the potential of these adults to promote mental health and wellness in the young people they are serving.”

On average, only 25 percent of children who require mental health services receive help. This is a major problem in our country and in Chicago in particular. For over a decade, Cicchetti and her colleagues have been working hard to find ways to connect children and adolescents with needed mental health services, ensure providers are using evidence-based programming, and identify new ways to address emerging mental health needs. The Center for Childhood Resilience will enable them to take their work to a new level and ultimately help more young people.

The Center’s School Mental Health Team, including Tara Gill, PhD, Sybil Dunlap, LCSW, and Claudio Rivera, PhD, trains multidisciplinary teams in schools to identify mental health issues and connect students with interventions and supports available at school and in their communities. To date, they have helped Chicago Public Schools build these support teams in more than 90 schools.

The Center is also leading work to inform educators, mental health providers, clinicians and community members on the impact of trauma, promote healing and resiliency and build trauma sensitive environments. This year, the Center’s trauma training has reached more than 1,500 professionals in Chicago Public Schools, Champaign, Danville, Aurora, United Methodist Northern Illinois, and at national conferences including 2016 National Association of School Psychologists conference in Denver.

The Center’s team members, including Tali Ravi, PhD, and Rebecca Ford-Paz, PhD, have unique expertise in the evaluation of mental health programming. They are currently evaluating the implementation of several specific programs that have great potential to help young people.

The Center is committed to training the next generation of mental health and pediatric professionals as well. “We offer current psychiatric residents and psychology fellows an opportunity to be immersed in community-based work and the public health approach to mental health services,” says Cicchetti. “We plan to expand our training focus to reach primary health providers and graduate trainees in psychology and social work.” Recently, Claire Coyne, PhD, and Cicchetti led a Trauma Workshop for 30 Lurie Children’s pediatric residents to recognize the impact of trauma and create trauma sensitive pediatric settings.

Another important goal for the Center is to lead advocacy and policy work so that lawmakers and community leaders have the information they need to make good decisions about behavioral health and youth services. Cicchetti co-chairs several city and statewide committees trying to tackle these issues.

The Center for Childhood Resilience was launched with the generous support from the Steans family. Additional philanthropic partners include Project 375, Polk Bros. Foundation, Get IN Chicago, and Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation.