Mini-Grants Available for Youth-Led Anti-Stigma Initiatives

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
January 25, 2021

The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) is once again offering mini-grants for youth-led projects to reduce stigma among their peers, with support from the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginia which is funded by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

These mini-grants will fund youth-planned, youth-led projects within Fairfax County, Fairfax City, and Falls Church City, to be completed by July 30, 2021. A total of $6,000 is available, for requests not to exceed $1,000 each.

Marla Zometsky, Manager of CSB Wellness, Health Promotion & Prevention services says that in addition to the goal of reducing the stigma around mental illness, the mini-grants also aim to promote help-seeking behaviors.

While mental health concerns and disorders are common, frank discussions about them are not a common occurrence. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24. "Far too often, stigma prevents people from getting the care they need and deserve. Stigma, coupled with the isolation due to the response to COVID-19, trauma and systemic racism, further impacts our physical and mental health,” says Zometsky. She added, "Youth are our leaders. Their voices are a powerful tool for change and these grants can support them as they lead the way to reduce the stigma associated with mental health concerns and prevent suicide."

Here are some ideas from previous years' grant awardees:

  • Healthy Minds Foster Futures Virtual 5K Walk: The Department of Family Services (DFS) Youth Advocate Program hosted the "Healthy Minds Foster Futures" virtual walk. This virtual walk was originally planned to be in person however, due to the pandemic, it was changed to a virtual platform. These youth leaders created a link, providing easy access to the flyer and registration for participants via the DFS website. Next, they connected with more than 62 agencies such as NAMI, several Board of Supervisor’s offices, Catholic Charities, Trauma Informed Community Network and Project Life to raise awareness by posting to their websites and/or newsletters. The event received at least 800 views and participants learned about the impact and prevalence of mental health in the foster care community.
  • Using Positivity to Improve Teenage Girls Confidence: Approximately 2,100 students who attend Lake Braddock Secondary School will be able to reap the benefits of the "Using Positivity to Improve Teenage Girls Confidence" project. This group of dedicated young people created an initiative that provided confidence boosts and positive self-talk tools for their peers by painting positive messages on the stalls and walls of girl’s locker rooms and restrooms throughout the school. They were also able to provide information about mental health resources to the students by attaching these resources to all the bathroom stall doors.
  • The Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC) met with 32 youth, from ages 6 to 18 years enrolled in the Summer Learning Loss Prevention Program in the Island Walk community center in Reston. The collective taught the youth how to stop, reduce and cope with stigma relating to mental health conditions. They also learned how to help someone with a mental health challenge and how to find resources for them.
  • Walk in Our Shoes: Throughout a course of three months, Ayesha Abdullahi and Ahlam Ali (of CPDC) met with a hundred students at five different affordable housing sites to provide interactive lessons about mental health awareness. Throughout the project, the pair taught youth how to stop or reduce stigma, how to cope with both mental health conditions and the stigma that comes along with them, and how to help someone with a mental health condition - both dealing with students with mental disabilities and helping them find the resources to get better. During their initiative they were able to engage students from 1st through 12th grades.

Proposals are due Monday, February 8, 2021 and awards will be announced Friday, February 12, 2021.

Review the Request for Proposals to find out how to apply, and email csbprevention@fairfaxcounty.gov with questions.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis, text HOME to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor, call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 911.

The Healthy Minds Blog shares information related to youth mental health and wellness for an audience of parent, educators and community-based providers. Articles include tips and strategies for increasing wellness and resiliency, as well as fostering success at home, at school and in the community.

The Healthy Minds Blog is a collaborative project between Fairfax County Public Schools and the Prevention Unit of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. It is part of the Healthy Minds Fairfax (see below) initiative, designed to support emotional wellness in youth and families.

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