3 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

The temperature has dropped, the daylight hours have decreased, and for some this means the Winter Blues has set in. This can be overwhelming especially for those battling the physical and mental downside the change in season while supporting those with mental health challenges. Here are three ways to combat the Winter Blues as a lived experience professional:

1. Be Productive. Keeping busy and being productive can aid in fighting the Winter Blues. The sense of accomplishment that comes from productivity releases dopamine, a hormone that plays a role in learning and motivation. Other ways to get dopamine include exercising, reading a book, or spending time in nature. Productivity doesn’t always mean doing something that will add another check to your to-do list such as completing documentation or a training. Sometimes it means doing something that your future self and those that you support will thank you for later, such as spending time with a pet.

2. Sunlight. Sunlight is vital for those fighting the Winter Blues because when there is less sunlight, the body produces less serotonin. A deficit in serotonin can lead to a decrease in mood, sleep, appetite, and memory. Get outside during daylight hours as much as possible. You can do this by taking walks through your neighborhood during your breaks if you work from home, having lunch outside or even meeting with your youth and families outside. A nice change in scenery can do wonders not only for you, but those you support. After all, you are probably not the only one struggling, so bundle up and get outside!

3. Stay connected. During the cold months, it’s easy to want to stay in and sleep and eat more than usual. Do not fall victim to those desires by staying connected to friends, family, and co-workers. One way to stay connected is to keep up with any holiday traditions with friends and family. If you don’t have any, take the time and put forth the effort to create some. If you’ve lost family members in recent years, be intentional about creating new memories with those who are still with you. Staying connected prevents isolation and helps fight the Winter Blues.

Highlights from the Family Partner Workforce

This month we’ve focused on defining what we do through a social media explainer video campaign that coincided with Global Peer Support Celebration Day on October 19th. A couple of other examples  of how we make an impact through lived experience come directly from the Family Partner Workforce.

Lydia Aponte-Tucker shared, “I am blessed to have a profession that allows me to help and give in such of meaningful way. I’m dedicated to support, educate and provide resources to parents and caregivers whose child or children are experiencing mental health conditions. I help navigate and facilitate resources available to ensure the best quality of life for my families. My passion for my profession originated after experiencing being a parent of a child with a mental health condition with no support nor knowledge at the beginning of our journey. Realizing that a lot of the challenges and obstacles I went through came from the lack of support, the lack of knowledge and the lack of resource awareness was the force behind me becoming a Family Partner. I am committed to be part of the movement that will take mental health to the next level because we have come far with mental health, but we still have a long way to go.”

“If I never do anything else, this class has helped and validated my experience so much I was just able to speak with a provider calmly assertively and eloquently while highlighting the common ground. We are the change and I believe that with every fiber of my being!,” proclaimed Jessica Page, a Family Partner 101 participant.

If you or someone you know is the caregiver of a youth or young adult who has mental or behavioral health challenges and is interested in learning more about utilizing their experience, please contact our Family Training Coordinator, Frederick Douglas at fmdougla@uncg.edu!

 

 

My Recovery Story & How Others Can Find Help with ATLAS by Ashley Riley

Finding addiction treatment shouldn’t be hard. When you decide to change your life, you should feel confident that your treatment facility will support you in your journey, using services backed by research and science. But unfortunately, that isn’t the case for everyone.

I began my recovery journey eight years ago.

At the time, I was facing suspension for my drinking history. Still, the University of Connecticut gave me another chance, as long as I attended a Collegiate Recovery meeting once per week, went to therapy and a harm reduction group, and attended 12-step meetings daily.

Life didn’t magically get better because I stopped using substances. It became increasingly more difficult – at the beginning of my sobriety, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Years after I got sober, I was hospitalized twice and in mental health treatment for one year.

Looking back, I can see that due to untreated mental health issues, I wanted to drink every day in my first year of sobriety. Even after that year, I struggled because I was only being treated for part of the problem – my addiction. Suicidal thoughts plagued me daily until I found the proper medication; not having treatment for my addiction AND mental health could have cost me my life.

If Shatterproof’s Treatment Atlas had been available to me, I’m confident that my journey through treatment would have looked very different.

The website can be used by anyone touched by addiction to search for and compare treatment based on their individual needs. For me, I needed to find treatment for co-occurring disorders. I also needed mental health medication, treatment inclusive of the LGBTQ+ population, and treatment that accepted my insurance – all of which can be found on the Treatment Atlas website, treatmentatlas.org.

This is huge. Not only is Treatment Atlas a resource for those searching for care, but it is also a tool to hold providers accountable – to ensure that the services they offer are helpful, progressive, and backed by science. Treatment Atlas also gives patients like me a voice by providing a space to share their experiences through anonymous feedback surveys.

Treatment Atlas brings a sense of community to the overwhelming journey that is recovery.

I am grateful that I am now a member of the Shatterproof team and get to be a part of helping to guide communities to recovery. For North Carolinians, Treatment Atlas brings a sense of hope – hope that you can find the right treatment program to meet your needs and that you never have to walk this path alone. Although Treatment Atlas wasn’t around to help me during my initial recovery journey, I sincerely hope it can now help you and your loved ones in your time of need. We all deserve confidence in our recovery journeys.

 

Introducing The Guide’s Guide: A blog for lived experience professionals

The Guide’s Guide–A blog for lived experience professionals

Hello and welcome to The Guide’s Guide– a blog for lived experience professionals! Here you’ll find posts specifically for individuals who use their lived experience professionally or individuals who would like to learn more about peer support, mental health, behavioral health and how to impact their communities using their lived experience. These posts will come from the NCVA Team or as some say, lived experience experts.

Many people feel that using your lived experience means you’ve mastered some part of your life and for some lived experience professionals that is the case, but the truth is no matter where you find yourself on your journey, you’re still living your lived experience and so are we! Living. Learning. Exploring. For us, using your lived experience simply means supporting someone else on their journey as they face challenges similar to ones you’ve endured. We don’t get to choose how others process their experiences, but we can guide them through it! That’s what the Guide’s Guide is all about–guiding those who guide others and giving them the tools to succeed.

We declare this section of our website a brave space where we acknowledge the challenges that come with using lived experience professionally! We aim to support and empower those who are open to engaging in sometimes difficult yet important issues that surround mental health peer support for the purposes of becoming better lived experience professionals! Whether you are a youth partner, family peer specialist or in training, we hope these posts will add value to your experience and the impact you have on those you serve!

Join the movement by following us on social media and subscribing to our YouTube channel! There’s so much in store!

 

4 Tips for College Students Managing Mental Health

College can be frustrating when you live with a mental health condition, but I am living proof that earning a degree while living with a mental health diagnosis is obtainable. Your college career may not look like your peers’ and it may take you more than four years, but it is an amazing journey and you will have built so much character and resilience when you finally get that beloved piece of paper. Here are four tips for college students managing a mental health condition:

1. Plan, Plan, Plan.

Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” When it comes to managing a mental health diagnosis and attending college, I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t learn to plan out every little detail of my schedule until I was a working adult enrolled in online classes, and managing bipolar. I feel as though if I had learned this as soon as I was diagnosed, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to finish. I have found that it is important to manage every assignment and appointment. From that dreaded English paper to your 4 o’clock session with your favorite therapist. I’ve learned to use different organizational tools to plan such as planners, note cards, sticky notes and of course, my beloved iPhone. Find your magic tools and get to planning! Stay at least one week ahead.

2. Take Advantage of the Resources at Your Institution.

I was away at school for a few years before I began to take advantage of the resources available on campus such as therapy and other mental health services. I struggled for a while before asking for help. Partly due to my pride and partly due to just plain ignorance, I had no idea that there were so many opportunities to get help. They vary by institution, but nowadays most campuses have some type of mental health services and or resources for students. If you’re like I was and find it challenging to ask for help, think of how much more time and energy you’ll have when your issues are being addressed and not looming over you. Think of how it will feel focus on your courses, personal projects and passions instead of focusing on how you feel stuck and unable to move forward.

3. Communicate with Your Instructors.

Contrary to popular opinion, your college professors are there for you. I know in high school and in other parts of society it is taught that your professors don’t care if you succeed. News flash: they do! That’s why it is important to build rapport with them and let them know what’s going on with you. They can’t help you if they don’t know what you’re dealing with. At some colleges, this is as easy as having your diagnosis documented or simply sending an e-mail at the beginning of the semester letting your professors know ahead of time while at other schools you have to be registered with some type of disability services office or other resource. It can be overwhelming, but simply communicating with your teachers goes a long way when you’re mid-semester and your symptoms arise.

4. Stay the Course, but Remain Realistic.

There were so many times that I wanted to quit and to be honest, there were times when I did give up, but something always pulled me back. I believe this something was my desire to complete what I had started and ultimately accomplish what I knew in my heart of hearts I could do. At times, I felt like taking on a full course load in order to speed up the process, but I had to be realistic and know that too much on my plate would not be beneficial mentally or academically. In staying the course, I learned to slow down and revel in small victories, such as successfully completing one or two courses per semester. Over time this built my confidence in my ability to finish. This pace was perfect for me and my lifestyle. I was on a realistic path to completing my degree and it worked!


You will get overwhelmed and want to quit. Some days you’ll have more doubt than desire to move forward. You will also have days when you feel on top of the world and unstoppable because you are working hard and killing every obstacle in your way. It’s all a part of the process. Every failure serves as a lesson and every success becomes a metaphor for the next.


Adapted from the blog post Degrees and Diagnoses: Four Ways to Get One While Living with the Other at kontentlykara.com

We’re looking for a research/evaluation partner to help us learn about mental health & higher education institutions in North Carolina

Call for Proposals: Seeking a Research/Evaluation Partner to Focus on Mental Health and Higher Education Institutions in North Carolina

NC Youth & Family Voices Amplified Program

UNC Greensboro Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships

 

The mission of NC Youth & Family Voices Amplified is to amplify the voice of NC’s youth and families in systems and services that support their mental health and well-being. We do this through education, community partnerships, and support to enhance family-driven and youth-led care. To learn more about NC Voices Amplified, please visit https://ncvoicesamplified.uncg.edu/

NC Voices Amplified is housed within the UNCG Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships (CYFCP), and it is supported by a contract with the NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child and Family Well-Being

This year, as part of our strategic capacity-building activities related to Youth Peer Support in North Carolina, we will conduct a statewide needs assessment and develop an outreach plan specific to engaging higher education institutions (including 4-year colleges and universities and community colleges) across North Carolina. A focus will be on building connections between the Youth Peer Support movement in North Carolina and mental/behavioral health-related activities on college campuses. 

Requested research/evaluation services: We are seeking a collaborative research/evaluation partner to work with NC Voices Amplified and CYFCP staff to plan and implement two key deliverables:

  1. A needs assessment that should include both quantitative and qualitative data
  2. An outreach plan with recommendations for how NC Voices Amplified can effectively engage higher education institutions to promote youth and young adult mental health based upon the findings of the needs assessment

Project budget: The budget for this project is $15,000. The researcher/evaluator will be contracted with UNCG following UNCG’s contracting processes and policies prior to the project’s start date.

Project timeline: This project must be completed by June 30, 2023. 

Application process: We invite interested prospective facilitators to develop a brief (i.e., 1-2 page) proposal, plus a budget which can be included on a third page) to answer the following question: 

What do you propose to do within the budgeted amount of $15,000 to (1) conduct a high-quality needs assessment and (2) develop a needs assessment-informed outreach plan, with both deliverables relating to how NC Voices Amplified can best engage higher education institutions across North Carolina in its work related to Youth Peer Support?

Please indicate in your proposal how your research/evaluation approach will honor and elevate the lived experiences of youth and young adults.

To apply, please submit your proposal to Christine Murray at cemurray@uncg.edu by November 15th, 2022. 

Please note: Submission of an application in response to this Call for Proposals is a first-stage inquiry in the contracting process. No received response to this inquiry will be viewed by UNCG as any type of official contract between UNCG and the prospective facilitator. 

 

We’re Seeking a Facilitator for a Mental Health-Focused Youth Voices Storytelling Project!

Call for Proposals: Seeking a Facilitator for a Mental Health-Focused Youth Voices Storytelling Project 

NC Youth & Family Voices Amplified Program

UNC Greensboro Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships

The mission of NC Youth & Family Voices Amplified is to amplify the voice of NC’s youth and families in systems and services that support their mental health and well-being. We do this through education, community partnerships, and support to enhance family-driven and youth-led care. To learn more about NC Voices Amplified, please visit https://ncvoicesamplified.uncg.edu/

NC Voices Amplified is housed within the UNCG Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships, and it is supported by a contract with the NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child and Family Well-Being

This year, as part of our strategic capacity-building activities related to Youth Peer Support in North Carolina, we will conduct a statewide Youth Voices Storytelling Project that will involve a creative (likely arts-based) approach to providing forums for Youth to share their experiences related to mental and behavioral health. 

The impact of this project will be measured by documenting the number of individuals in the community who are impacted (e.g., by tracking social media and/or website analytics and/or by tracking attendance at any in-person events or forums) and by seeking evaluative feedback from the Youth who participate and share their experiences through the project.  

Requested facilitation services: We are seeking a dynamic facilitator (which could be an individual, team, or organization) to work with NC Voices Amplified staff to provide leadership, vision, and direct program development and implementation for the statewide Youth Voices Storytelling Project. At the present time, the specific plans for this project are still to be determined, and we anticipate that the facilitator will tailor the project to their unique talents and artistic/creative medium(s) and platforms. 

Project budget: The budget for this project is $20,000. The facilitator will be contracted with UNCG following UNCG’s contracting processes and policies prior to the project’s start date.

Project timeline: This project must be completed by June 30, 2023. 

Application process: We invite interested prospective facilitators to bring creativity to developing a brief (i.e., 1-2 page) proposal, plus a budget which can be included on a third page) to answer the following question: 

What do you propose to do within the budgeted amount of $20,000 to develop and implement a creative statewide Youth Voices Storytelling Project that will help elevate the voices and stories of youth and young adults around their experiences with mental health?

In your proposal, please describe how your facilitation approach will address both the quality and quantity of this project:

  • By quality, we mean that the project will provide a meaningful experience for the youth who will be involved, and also that the project will lead to the development of high-quality, impactful stories, in whatever medium(s) are used, that can be shared with the public in North Carolina to raise awareness about youth mental health. 
  • By quantity, we mean that the project will be able to include a significant number of youth participants, and also that it will have the potential to reach a large public audience to help achieve the project’s goal of raising awareness about youth mental health. 

Also, please indicate in your proposal how your facilitation approach will honor and elevate the lived experiences of youth and young adults.

To apply, please submit your proposal to Christine Murray at cemurray@uncg.edu by Friday, August 26th, 2022. 

Please note: Submission of an application in response to this Call for Proposals is a first-stage inquiry in the contracting process. No response received to this inquiry will be viewed by UNCG as any type of official contract between UNCG and the prospective facilitator. 

 

What can you expect from NC Youth & Family Voices Amplified?

 

NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified is a new program within the UNC Greensboro Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships. The mission of Voices Amplified is to amplify the voice of NC’s youth and families in systems and services that support their mental health and well being. We do this through education, community partnerships, and support to enhance family-driven and youth-led care. 

All of this Program’s staff members will bring their own personal lived experiences and extensive experience in the arena of Youth and Family Peer Support to provide leadership in North Carolina’s movement to empower youth and family voice in promoting mental health across the State. 

Voices Amplified builds on decades of work across North Carolina to infuse the System of Care framework and youth and family voice into child- and family-serving systems. However, as a new program within UNCG, much of our work is still in the very early planning stages! 

However, to give you a sneak peak of what lies ahead for Voices Amplified, here are just a few of the key activities our team will be working on in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead:

  • Training and certification for Family Partners and Youth Peer Support Providers across North Carolina
  • Technical assistance to Youth and Family Peer Support Providers, as well as the agencies that employ them
  • Collaboration activities to advance the System of Care framework across child- and family-serving systems in North Carolina
  • In-person and on-line outreach to youth and families to promote mental health and access to services and support
  • Recruitment of prospective new Family Partners and Youth Peer Support Providers
  • Advocacy for youth and families to be at the table when decisions are made about systems and services that impact their lives. 

We look forward to partnering with individuals, families, and organizations at the local, regional, and statewide levels to carry out this work! We invite you to stay connected with us through our website and social media channels, where more details will be coming soon as we are ready to launch the program’s specific activities. 

Connect with us on social media!

 

Learn more from Kara Lynch below:

What is the System of Care Approach?

 

By Chandrika Brown, Collaboration Coordinator

The NC Collaborative for Children, Youth, and Families website says System of Care is a comprehensive network of community-based services and supports organized to meet the needs of families involved with multiple child service agencies. Some don’t know that System of Care is not a service or a program – it is a way of working together with youth and families to achieve the desired outcomes identified by the youth and family. 

SOC exists because, over the years, experts in their field have discovered that partnering with youth and families around the services they provide results in more positive outcomes for children, youth, and families. SOC is a combination of collaboration, accountability, cultural responsiveness, individualized strength-based approach, child and family partnerships, and community-based services and supports. 

Another significant value of SOC from a family’s perspective is hope. SOC gives our families and youth hope. Collaboration is essential in supporting families and youth because families grow tired of repeating their stories to multiple agencies over and over and attending various meetings for different agencies when they could have attended one meeting with everyone involved. Collaboration shows the family and youth that you hear them, their voice is essential, and that you are there to support them as you feel the support is needed.

“System of Care has many great benefits, such as the Child and Family Team meetings. During this component of System of Care, everyone involved in the family’s life is invited to the same meeting, which is a learning opportunity for everyone, including the family. The family learns how systems operate, and agency staff learns more about the family. Together a plan will be created with families leading the process and sharing what they will commit to and what may be some barriers in accomplishing a goal,” shared Family Partner, Teka Dempson.

 

Hear more from Chandrika below:

Our Vision for Amplifying Youth Voices in North Carolina

 

By Kyle Reece, Youth Training Coordinator

Young people have the right to be heard is a statement that has never been more profound than right now. As the world is coming out of a global pandemic, mental health is a topic of discussion more than ever. Although advocacy is the proven catalyst to change, the youth empowerment movement still has a long way to go. While self-advocacy opportunities for youth are on the rise, there is still the inspiration to raise mental health awareness, promote positive youth development, and train youth in independent living and self-advocacy.

UNC-Greensboro’s Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships’ new program, NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified, has the perfect opportunity to provide youth with training and skills that will allow them to utilize their own lived experience to affect positive change in their own lives and their communities. We will also provide Youth Support Partners the support needed to work with youth hands-on and offer the technical assistance necessary to ensure youth are fully supported and given opportunities for advocacy.

We know the importance of mental health awareness and youth advocacy. Still, we must also provide opportunities for youth to get involved and provide their own lived experience in these efforts. The efforts will be achieved in various ways. First, it’s vital to ensure youth are considered equal partners in all aspects of our work. This starts with empowering youth through self-advocacy training, compelling storytelling, youth advisory councils, and speaking opportunities. We show them respect by encouraging young people to speak up for themselves and their peers. Listening and creating opportunities for their voices to affect meaningful change in the communities, systems, and services they are involved in results in positive changes and ensures positive growth in the youth we serve.

 As important as it is to equip youth with the skills necessary to succeed, it is equally imperative to train and support those who work with youth. We ensure that young people have the support required to grow as they navigate mental and behavioral health services and systems by providing technical assistance and guidance to Youth Support Partners. In a time when youth need the most support, it is essential to ensure that their Support Partners have the tools and skills necessary to empower and support them as they navigate these systems and encourage them to advocate for themselves and others. We are maximizing the potential for positive growth for the youth we serve. 

 NC Youth and Family Voices Amplified strives to ensure that youth are supported through peer support, advocacy training, and opportunities for their voices to be discovered. By focusing on the training, technical assistance, and community partnerships necessary to provide youth with opportunities to be treated as equal partners and utilize their lived experiences in meaningful ways, we will affect positive change in their own lives. We know that we will successfully empower young people to meet their full potential. In this unique time, when change, advocacy, and mental health awareness are imperative, we must never forget that young people have the right to be heard!

Hear more from Kyle below:

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Contact Us

The Center for Youth, Family and Community Partnerships

University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG)

1001 West Gate City Blvd.

Greensboro, NC 27403

888-846-1066



This program is funded by the NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child and Family Well-being and housed at The UNCG Center for Youth, Family and Community Partnerships.