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Mental Health Awareness Month Support from the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI)

May 3, 2024

Question and Answer with the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI)

Explain how your Center is prioritizing mental health care throughout your work.

The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute (HDI) values the mental health of all individuals and promotes access to mental health through our mission to advance efforts that build inclusive communities, address inequities, and improve the lives of all people who experience disability. HDI believes mental health is health and we work for full access to mental health services and supports for all people with disabilities. HDI promotes a universal design framework and trauma informed practices that value the mental health of all individuals. This approach is achieved through a number of initiatives including HDI’s Sphere project which hosts a podcast called “Stigma Silenced” that highlights the voices of Kentuckians with lived experience on their mental health journey. HDI’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Program provides a unique training experience for interdisciplinary students with an emphasis on mental health. The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) project at HDI is an evidence-based practice that helps people with serious mental health conditions and/or substance use find and keep the types of jobs of their choosing while promoting quality mental health services. We also support and share the mental health research work of other University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD).

Promotional graphic for 'Stigma Silenced,' a mental health podcast by the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute. The design features a halftone image of a person's eyes and mouth covered by graphic elements, including a speech bubble with a microphone inside it, against a dark blue background.

What mental health initiatives has your Center developed that you’re most proud of?

HDI works to improve mental health services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) through Merge, the Kentucky Mental Health Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Training Initiative. Merge hosts webinars, a storytelling series, a Community of Practice, and a state team. Through Merge, HDI centers our work around the voices of people with lived experience being experts in their own care.

How does your Center make sure mental health services are accessible to people with disabilities?

HDI has developed the RETAIN program (Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network) which includes mental health as a key component of initiatives designed to bring injured or employees with disabilities back into the work environment and hosts monthly meetings to discuss the role of social determinants of health (SDOH). We have a mental health content specialist on RETAIN to consult on individual cases as we promote best practices for mental health accommodations in employment. Through RETAIN, HDI also offers webinars and has recently developed a Guide for Supporting Mental Health at Work.

The image is a mental health awareness flyer titled "RETAIN KENTUCKY Mental Health." It is divided into four main sections, each with distinct background colors and text.  Caring for your mental health: This section suggests activities like talking to friends, calling crisis lines, eating well, and spending time outdoors to maintain mental health. How to recognize you may need help: This section lists symptoms indicating the need for mental health support, such as persistent sadness, withdrawal from others, and increased substance use. Mental Health Resources: The section provides crisis helpline numbers including the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and other support services like the Trevor Lifeline and SAMHSA National Helpline. Helpful Websites: This section lists URLs for mental health resources such as KY CMHC, MHA, NAMI, and SAMHSA.

What resources or programs does your Center offer to support mental health to people with disabilities?

 In HDI’s previous work as part of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (MHDD) National Training Center, we developed a series of mental health modules for providers and individuals.

How does your state provide mental health techniques for health care professionals and educators?

HDI promotes Biopsychosocial Assessment and the connection between biological, psychological, and social factors in whole person care. We also promote Trauma Informed Practices and cultural humility in mental health treatment. We ascribe to a universal design framework, the social model of disability, and the inclusion of the voices of individuals with lived experiences as experts in their care. We promote the importance of social determinants of health and the role that supported decision making has on the influence of health outcomes, including mental health, to create a more accessible and inclusive health care system.

What measures has your Center implemented to support mental health in the workplace?

Within HDI, we host wellness and belonging events and host open virtual wellness calls to focus on the mental health of our staff. HDI hosts Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) discussions and events, and connects so our staff can give back to the community. We host regular office hours to share information, welcome new staff, and promote inclusion. HDI has a staff newsletter to share news and updates, including mental health information as we continually promote the mental health and wellness activities that the University of Kentucky offers to employees. HDI has a Universal Design and DEI committee to promote mental health and wellness efforts.

How does your Center train its mental health service providers to address the needs of people with disabilities?

We share research and evidence-based practices. We also promote individuals by sharing their own stories and experiences as experts in their own care and treatment. Through Merge, HDI is building provider resources to share with providers who share the goals and mission to service individuals with lived experience with mental health treatment.

Graphic promoting mental health services for individuals with developmental disabilities. It features two women in a therapy session: one, a Black woman, is seated on a pink couch wearing a white dress, and the other, a therapist with black hair, sits opposite in a teal chair. There is a quote: 'The simple truth is that clinicians without significant specialty training can effectively provide mental health services to those with developmental disabilities.' The logo of 'merge' is at the bottom.Promotional flyer for a Merge Webinar Series titled 'Accessibility Matters: Neuro-Inclusive Cancer Care.' It features a blue background with a white circle at the top containing a photo of two women smiling and sitting together.  Below the photo, details of the webinar are provided: scheduled for Tuesday, May 28, 2024, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm EST. The bottom includes a link for registration 'https://bit.ly/mergecancercare' and a QR code

What role does advocacy and community engagement play in shaping mental health services for people with disabilities?

We support our partners and share resources, local, state, and national events, and information. We use our website and social media to promote mental health services. We take part in promoting events such as Autism Acceptance Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, and Pride Month to share the stories of people with disabilities and their mental health journey. We employ people with lived experience to be on our staff, teams, and serve as advisors and experts.

Image featuring Glen Jennings from the Human Development Institute, expressing his thoughts for Autism Acceptance Month. Glen, dressed in a gray suit and blue striped tie, is seated on a stool playing an acoustic guitar in a room surrounded by various guitars hanging on wooden walls. The left side of the image has a bold blue background with white text stating 'Thoughts from HDI’s Glen Jennings On Autism Acceptance Month,' followed by the logo of the Human Development Institute at the bottom.

How does your Center ensure that mental health information and communication are accessible to all?

HDI provides leadership in making accessible materials in a variety of formats. We partner with mental health and disability providers across the state to reduce stigma and break down silos. We take part in initiatives to make sure information is accessible and ascribe to "nothing about us without us." We are currently working on the State Health Improvement Plan for mental health to include improved mental health care for individuals with disabilities. HDI partners with Protection and Advocacy, the Department for Public Health, the Department of Behavioral Health, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Mental Health America of Kentucky, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and many other state and federal partners to share information and resources, and to create a more accessible and inclusive mental health care system across Kentucky and the Nation to fulfill our vision of the full participation and contribution of all people with disabilities in all aspects of society.

More Information

For more information on Mental Health Awareness Month or to send any questions, comments, related resources, stories, please get in touch with Tida Sonetirot.


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Topic(s): Health and Wellness , Lived Experience , CEDC , COLA