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Partnering to provide quality mental health care

Since the late 1980s, the Michigan-based Ethel & James Flinn Foundation has provided over $3 million to the Depression Center and U-M Department of Psychiatry to support a shared vision of enhancing the lives of those living with mental illness.

Established by the Flinn family in 1975, the Flinn Foundation is dedicated to improving the quality, scope, and delivery of mental health services in Michigan for people of all ages through the sponsorship of grants to create, evaluate, and implement best practice mental health treatment programs. In addition, the foundation works to increase resources available to community mental health organizations, particularly those focused on underserved and vulnerable populations.

“The Flinn Foundation looks forward to continued collaboration and partnership with the Depression Center in the pursuit of improved mental health care in Michigan,” said the Foundation’s Executive Director, Andrea Cole. Depression Center researchers and staff are grateful for the Flinn Foundation’s generous support over the years, which includes funding for the two innovative projects described here.

Funds help launch “HomeFront Strong”

Michelle Kees, Ph.D., a child psychologist with extensive experience in working with families under stress and at high risk for mental health issues, leads HomeFront Strong, a project to help the families of service members and veterans build resilience and enhance their mental wellness.

“Military families are often overwhelmed by the many challenges—to relationships, parenting, and communication— that can arise during the deployment cycle,” says Kees. “Yet most military mental health programs focus on the needs of the service member, with only limited support extended to the family members who are also facing challenges. We intend to fill this void, and the Flinn Foundation is helping us do just that.”

HomeFront Strong was created to promote positive adjustment and help counteract mental health symptoms in military spouses and partners. The long-term goal, after piloting, evaluating, and refining the program, is to disseminate HomeFront Strong broadly across the country for use by other mental health service providers working with military families.

“Funding from the Flinn Foundation has been pivotal to launching HomeFront Strong in Michigan,” Kees says. “Military families have made enormous sacrifices in our communities, and it is an honor to join with the Flinn Foundation in giving back.”

Support for managing insomnia in teens

Sleep researcher Deirdre Conroy, Ph.D., leads a Flinn Foundation-sponsored study of young people dealing with both depression and sleep problems. Untreated insomnia in individuals with a history of depression can increase the likelihood that depressive symptoms will return, and also elevates the risk of suicide. Ninety percent of adolescents with depression report suffering from insomnia, yet clinicians currently have no available options other than medications to treat their sleep disturbances.

“These teens need a treatment option that not only improves their sleep, but is also acceptable and practical enough for them to stick with,” Conroy says. Her study will determine how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI), the standard non-drug therapy for adult insomnia, can be adapted for the specific needs of adolescents with depression. “Ultimately, successful management of insomnia can reduce rates of depression, anxiety, learning problems, and substance use disorders,” Conroy says. “We hope that once the new insomnia treatment is developed with input provided by teens, other teens will be more inclined to give it a try because it will target their unique sleep issues.” She adds, “We’re so thankful for the Flinn Foundation’s support to address this important health issue during the teen years, before problems escalate.”

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