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Health Insights Illinois

May Is Mental health awareness month, and IHD recognizes the importance from its programmatic core.

Picture with programs in Mental Health offered by IHD

As a society, we are starting to recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health. Events in recent years have led stakeholders to prioritize mental health awareness and support for their communities. At the University of Illinois Extension, our Integrated Health Disparities (IHD) program is committed to addressing this crucial aspect of health and well-being. 

One of the programs we offer through IHD is Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) for youth. This program provides participants with certification in readiness competencies to react to mental health crises in teenagers. Both English and Spanish are available in person and online.  

Another innovative program IHD offers is Bienvenido, a curriculum designed to support emotional health in immigrant communities. The acculturation process can be challenging, and the changes involved in adapting to a new culture can impact mental health. Through programs like Bienvenido, we aim to provide valuable support and resources to help immigrants navigate these challenges and maintain their mental well-being. 

Understanding the importance of collaboration and partnership with our communities to foster collaboration and program sustainability, the integrated health disparity team started a conversation with the YMCA to implement the program Bienvenido, locally. A key highlight of this collaboration is the fortuitous circumstance that the YMCA previously had funds allocated for therapy services, which can now be repurposed to better serve immigrants in need.  

By breaking down barriers to access, increasing health literacy, and fostering mental health awareness, this groundbreaking partnership has not only opened doors to vital emotional health services but has also empowered immigrants to fully integrate into the community and access the resources they need to thrive. By working together, we can more effectively reach and support individuals in need. 

At IHD, we understand that mental health is vital to overall community health. Without addressing mental health needs, individuals in our community, including new immigrants, may face significant obstacles to their well-being. By prioritizing mental health and addressing social determinants of health, we can work towards creating a healthier and more supportive society for all. 

Our commitment to mental health awareness and support is unwavering, and we invite you to join us in this important work. Together, we can make a difference in the mental health of our communities and contribute to the overall well-being and progress of society. 


Don't hesitate to contact our Mental Health specialist, Andrea Fanta, at for more information on signing in or partnering with us to bring training like MHFA and or programs like Bienvenido to your community. 


About the Author: Andrea S. Fanta is a statewide mental health extension specialist. As part of the Integrated Health Disparities program, she evaluates, develops, and implements programming to increase social justice in mental health. She has a master's degree in occupational therapy, and she is currently a doctoral fellow in the Department of
Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Andrea has vast experience working with families and actively collaborates with national and local coalitions to strengthen our communities.

The IHD program tackles health issues with an integrated physical, mental, and community health lens, providing programs and resources to address health inequities.