NMU study finds youth mental healthcare a challenge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

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A recent paper published by NMU student Isabelle Nebel and faculty member Brian Cherry found that access to mental health care for children is particularly difficult in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Several factors have made access to youth mental health care difficult in the Upper Peninsula. Rural geography creates barriers to accessing physicians, where only one child psychiatrist currently serves the entire U.P. Additionally, there are no inpatient beds for children who experience serious mental illnesses–the closest are hours away in either Grand Rapids or Green Bay. And the financial costs of mental health care can prove to be too heavy a burden for Medicaid carriers, private insurance carriers, and especially those who are uninsured.

Another issue is the stigma that surrounds mental health and mental health care that “must be systematically broken down and revealed, then replaced with compassion and understanding.”

Waning mental health care for youths in the U.P. is also affected by worse-than-average statewide numbers.

On average, Michigan’s mental health-related problems in children is higher than it is nationwide–about 37% of Michigan high school students “reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks so they stopped doing their usual activities,” whereas the nationwide average is 31%. Attempted suicides are also higher in Michigan, with 9% of Michigan high school students reporting they attempted suicide, compared to a 7% national average.

The paper concludes that it’s imperative that we take action to address these issues, stating, “the issue of mental healthcare in the Upper Peninsula must be addressed with all urgency before more children’s lives are lost to the grip of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other treatable mental health diagnoses.”

You can read the full 26-page paper here.

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