Center guides youth with serious mental health issues into adulthood

The transition from school to the workplace is difficult for many young people, but it can be even harder for those with serious mental health conditions. The Center for Mental Health Services Research in the Department of Psychiatry at UMass Medical School has created the Transitions Research and Training Center (RTC) to help ease that transition by identifying age-appropriate programs to help this at-risk population successfully complete schooling, receive training and launch their adult working careers.

Funded by a five-year grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Transitions RTC is led by principal investigator Maryann Davis, PhD, research associate professor of psychiatry.

“We hope to better understand what kinds of support programs are effective for youth and young adults who have serious mental health conditions during the important developmental stage between the ages of 14 and 30,” said Dr. Davis. “We will share the knowledge we gain from our research with service providers and policy makers so it can inform and ultimately impact policy and practice.”

Sharing their voices for hope

The goal of the Voices4Hope website, created by project assistants at the Transitions Research & Training Center (RTC), who are teens and young adults with serious mental health conditions themselves, is to connect peers facing similar challenges from across the state and the nation to talk, network and access information on gaining satisfying and independent lives. “Hot Topic” discussions are posted on employment, education and mental health issues, which may spark new ideas in the minds of young adults.

Voices4Hope also introduces visitors to the project assistants who courageously share their personal stories and the challenges they face and continue to meet each day. For example, one of the RTC project assistants has had to quit three different jobs in a two-year span due to reoccurring issues with her mental illness, including nine hospitalizations, while simultaneously attempting to leave a verbally abusive marriage. During this time, she felt that the support provided during hospitalization were adult centered, and not focused on her unique needs as a young adult. Voices4Hope offers tips on how to achieve goals; resources to help overcome specific challenges; updates on research being conducted by the Transitions RTC; and the opportunity for readers to share personal stories.