Project AWARE: Greater Ferguson Community

What is Project AWARE?

Project AWARE in the Greater Ferguson Community provides caring adults with the knowledge and skills they need to assist youth who are developing mental health symptoms or in mental health crisis. To accomplish this, MIMH and its partner organizations are providing Youth Mental Health First Aid courses to teach adults how to recognize signs and symptoms, engage youth and refer them to appropriate professional help, while raising awareness of youth mental health through social marketing.

Our Goals:

⋅ Increase an overall understanding of youth mental health
⋅ Increase awareness of youth mental health concerns through outreach and engagement with youth and their families or caregiver
⋅ Increase people’s ability to respond to the youth behavioral or emotional concerns
Link youth to mental, emotional, and behavioral health support services
⋅ Increase the number of partnerships between youth-serving agencies in the community

Who Do We Serve?

We intend to work with adults who interact with teenagers within the Greater Ferguson Community. These areas include:

⋅ 63135 – The City of Ferguson
⋅ 63121 – The City of Normandy and The City of Bell-Ridge
⋅ 63133 – The City of Pagedale
⋅ 63136 – The City of Jennings
⋅ 63137 – Riverview Village
⋅ 63138 – The Community of Spanish Lake.

Why This Community?

Ferguson is located ten miles northwest of St. Louis, MO, part of North St. Louis County. According to the St. Louis County Health Department, North and Mid County report the highest levels of individuals who had poor mental health for at least 11 of the past 30 days. These areas also have the highest percentages of respondents who reported a need for mental health treatment but did not receive it. The high level of need and low utilization rate indicates high levels of undiagnosed or untreated mental health conditions in both North and Mid County St. Louis. While most areas in St. Louis County have rates of suicide lower than the state average, the rates are higher among North County males.

In addition to high poverty rates, low utilization rates for certain mental health conditions, and a high percentage of minority residents, Ferguson, MO was the site of violent protests that gained nationwide attention following the tragic shooting death of Michael Brown, in the summer of 2014. The recent trauma experienced in Ferguson as a result of the unrest and the ongoing conflict calls for increased mental health training of responsible adults that will help them to provide assistance to youth in the area who may be experiencing mental health crises. We will concentrate our training in Ferguson and include the surrounding North St. Louis County area as young people throughout this area are affected by these events.

North St. Louis County has pre-existing risk factors that highlight the need to increase the mental health literacy of adults in this area. In 2012, the Children’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Needs Assessment indicated that over ten percent of St. Louis County public and private high school students reported they had seriously considered suicide in the past year. Around 13 % of public and private high school students had engaged in non-suicidal self-injury. Children know how to access mental health services, but they lack the skills for communicating to adults about their mental health concerns. Further, adults are unsure of how to respond to children’s mental health-related behaviors, particularly violent behavior.