Michigan Association of Health Plans

$750K grant for teen mental health campaigns awarded to Michigan nonprofit

A southeast Michigan nonprofit will continue and expand its “UMatter” mental health campaign for teens thanks to a $750,000 grant, Friendship Circle of Michigan announced this week.

The Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety gave Friendship Circle a $250,000 grant in 2017, according to a news release. The extension and additional funding will create a partnership between the two groups, focusing on efforts surrounding the UMatter campaign for 15 years.

The awareness weeks in Washtenaw Intermediate School District schools are student led and attempt to engage teens in culture shifts surrounding mental health. Funds from the 2017 Washtenaw County Mental Health and Public Safety Preservation Millage also support the campaign, which started in Oakland County in 2016. It now operates or shares its curriculum in 30 southeast Michigan schools.

Some Washtenaw County high schools began using the UMatter campaign this year. Yarden Blumstein, the UMatter director at the Friendship Circle, said students are responsible for implementing the program, including hallway decorations, school assemblies and suicide prevention discussions.

“Social anxiety will be a part of the conversation our program will have as teens discuss mental health with their peers, as part of the effort to eliminate stigma and make conversation about mental health as common and important as it is about physical health,” Levi Shemtov, Friendship Circle executive director, said in a statement.

UMatter will take over the Andrew Kukes Foundation’s social media presence that shares resources for those suffering with social anxiety, according to the news release.

“The UMatter program is exactly what is needed today to directly help teens struggling with social anxiety and other mental health issues,” Jeff Kukes, chairman of the The Andrew Kukes Foundation, said in a statement. “Friendship Circle has shown us its ability to do this in a most caring and dedicated way.”

This aricle appeared in MLive. Read more here.