Community mental health offers BIPOC youth hope through mental health supports

This article is part of MI Mental Health, a new series highlighting the opportunities that Michigan's children, teens, and adults of all ages have to find the mental health help they need, when and where they need it. It is made possible with funding from Genesee Health Systems, Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, and its community mental health (CMH) agency members. 

Discussing mental health is always an important conversation. But it can be tricky to talk about. Finding the right words can be hard, especially across varying generations dealing with entirely different issues. Searching for the right tools, resources, or therapy methods can make people seeking help feel even more vulnerable. The Genesee Health System (GHS) provides resources and services to help Genesee County youth within BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities ensure they are not alone on their mental health journey. 
Angela Tyler, Genesee Health System's Director of Strategic Initiatives.
GHS Director of Strategic Initiatives Angela Tyler speaks with MI Mental Health about what GHS is doing to provide support for Genesee County youth who are growing up amidst challenging times. 

Q:  How does the Genesee Health System show its commitment to the mental health of local youth?
A. GHS demonstrates its commitment to local youth through partnerships with youth-focused community organizations, school-based therapeutic groups, and crisis response. GHS also works very closely with the juvenile court by having a mental health professional co-located at the Regional Detention Center and providing a targeted family therapy model (Multi-Systemic Therapy) for youth involved in the court system.

Q. What kinds of things do you witness local youth trying to process and deal with in their daily lives?

A. Our youth continue to deal with issues around violence, poverty, substance use, lack of access to pro-social recreation, and the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, where so many BIPOC families experienced the loss of a loved one.  

Q. Do these vary when it comes to local BIPOC youth?

A. It’s been well-documented, the health disparities that exist for BIPOC youth and their families. These disparities exacerbate the challenges that already exist among most teens. However, despite so many obstacles, BIPOC youth in this community have demonstrated, time and time again, their resourcefulness, creativity, and resiliency. Flint is unique in that so many adults in this community see BIPOC youth through the lens of creativity and are working diligently to provide opportunities for them to demonstrate those skills.

Q. What kinds of advice, resources, and tools can GHS provide to fellow youth experiencing these things?

A. If a young person finds themselves experiencing emotional distress (sadness, being overwhelmed, anxious, just feeling “off”), they should know they are not alone and that help is available. Distressing thoughts and feelings are normal for everyone. We are here to help. GHS has multiple crisis services available. 

Genesee Health System Center for Children’s Integrated Services.Q. Despite more openness for younger generations to discuss mental health and seek therapy, what remaining stigma is GHS working to overcome?

A. GHS continues to work to improve access for everyone. Historically, our services were only available for those with a specialized need and that received Medicaid. However, we’ve expanded our reach. Our services are available to everyone, and GHS continues to seek partnerships through millage-funded services.

In 2022, GHS opened a new state-of-the-art Center for Children’s Integrated Services building, centrally located in Flint. The 60,000-square-foot building has all GHS children’s program areas in one building, including the Children’s Integrated Services Assessment Clinic, Children’s Autism Center, and Child and Family Services.

We’re also growing our partnerships with Genesee County school districts with our U-Care program. This program provides crisis intervention, crisis screenings, referral and coordination of care, and brief, targeted therapy to assure ongoing stabilization and follow-up.

Q. In your opinion, how can society overcome those mental health stigmas?

A. We must continue to have conversations about mental health. Stigmas are lessened and removed when we have safe and comfortable spaces that allow for open expressions of how one feels. These conversations should be created for those with mental health needs, family and friend support groups, and mental health professionals. 

Q. In your opinion, why is discussing the mental health of BIPOC such an important conversation?

A. We know that one in five individuals will have a mental health concern at least once in their lifetime. Many don’t seek help, but treatment works and can change lives. There is hope for individuals and families. Education and understanding can alleviate fear and stigma. GHS offers a variety of mental health training for the community. Individuals can see the complete list of mental health training and sign up at We also have a Pillars of Hope outreach program that is another way to reach the community for mental health services with our local faith-based partners in Genesee County. All of this provides multiple avenues for people to talk to us, to approach us in non-threatening, easy-to-access locations in their neighborhoods, and to learn more about mental illness, how to find help, and how to give support.

Genesee Health System Center for Children’s Integrated Services.Q.  What kinds of positive progress have you seen in the mental health of BIPOC youth within Genesee County communities?

A. I love that BIPOC youth are now having conversations about mental health. They see celebrities and the people in their lives discuss it more openly. The COVID-19 pandemic opened the door to many of these conversations. Social media, with many of its flaws, has also provided a platform for youth to share and receive educational information on mental health. 
Q. Looking ahead, what kind of goals or milestones would you like to see achieved within the discussion of BIPOC mental health?

A. More support networks. More sustainable resources. Reduction of stigmas. 

Genesee County residents can get help 24/7 by contacting the GHS Crisis Line at 810-257-3740 or text FLINT to 74174 or Virtual Behavioral Health Urgent Care at 810-496-5500. GHS Behavioral Health Urgent Care and the Intensive Crisis Team for youth also can be reached at 810-496-5500 seven days a week.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new, interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at [email protected].

Photo of youth: Brett Sayles, Pexels
Other photos courtesy of Genesee Health Systems

The MI Mental Health series highlights the opportunities that Michigan's children, teens and adults of all ages have to find the mental health help they need, when and where they need it. It is made possible with funding from the Community Mental Health Association of MichiganCenter for Health and Research TransformationGenesee Health SystemMental Health Foundation of West MichiganNorth Country CMHNorthern Lakes CMH AuthorityOnPointSanilac County CMHSt. Clair County CMHSummit Pointe, and Washtenaw County CMH.
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