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NC mental health program recruits peer support providers

Photo: wocintechchat.com
Peer support providers are trained to use their personal experiences with mental health to support others.

This story was produced through a collaboration between WFAE and La Noticia. You can read it in Spanish at La Noticia. Puedes leer la nota en español en La Noticia.

A statewide initiative aimed at increasing access to mental health services for children and youth launches this week.

The NC Voices Amplified program plans to recruit and train individuals with lived mental health challenges as specialists in every North Carolina county.

Late in 2021, several national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Surgeon General, sounded the alarm that youth mental health was in crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated challenges that already existed, including increasing rates of depression and suicidal behavior in youth.

To address local mental health needs, Kara Lynch, the outreach coordinator for NC Voices Amplified, said individuals called family, youth and peer support providers could provide a valuable resource.

Kara Lynch.jpeg
Photo: Submitted
Kara Lynch of NC Voices Amplified

“Family peer support and youth peer support are people who use their own lived experience with either being the caregiver of someone with mental health or behavioral health challenges or someone who has experienced mental health or behavioral health challenges themselves as a youth or young adult,” Lynch explained.

By providing access to individuals with personal mental health experience, the idea is to reduce fear of reaching out for support.

“That lived experience along with the training that they will receive is a great combination to support the mental health and well-being of youth and families in all communities across North Carolina,” Lynch said.

The program is being coordinated by the UNC Greensboro Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships with funding through the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Another goal of the initiative is to train peer support providers who are multilingual and to connect agencies with translation and interpretation services to fill service gaps.

“My hope is that the program recruits and trains family peer support and youth peer support in order to not only support the mental health and well-being of youth and families in North Carolina but also serve as an example to other states and address the national mental health crisis,” Lynch said.

NC Voices Amplified will be hosting a virtual kickoff for the program throughout the week on its website and social media pages.

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Kayla Young is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity, and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.