The Mental Wellness Project Archive

The Mental Wellness Project is a solutions-oriented journalism initiative covering mental health issues in Southwest Michigan, created by the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative.

This is a new project built to:

  • LISTEN to Southwest Michigan community members about the issues affecting mental wellness
  • LEARN how we can improve access to mental health services and supports to build healthier, happier communities
  • REPORT on effective approaches that can remove barriers to mental health services

Two undergraduate psychology students at Western Michigan University are spending their summer helping to create a youth-driven program that offers community experiences to local teens and opportunities to develop skills from meditation to healthy cooking.
As a medical student, Eric Achtyes really didn’t know what field he should specialize in. But after a six-week rotation in psychiatric medicine, he knew.
Kaitlyn Berry knew helping people would come at a cost. Still, the Western Michigan University grad student didn’t anticipate heading into a mental health counseling career with close to $100,000 in student loan debt hanging over her head.
Not long after Nancy Rubio’s family moved to Kalamazoo, tragedy struck. Her husband was killed in a car crash. Her young son Diego was struggling to cope, so his elementary school connected the family to El Concilio, a local organization that supports the Latinx community, for counseling in his primary language: Spanish.
Trained in the treatment of both physical and mental health needs, PMHNPs serve as a bridge between those worlds.
Demand is high for mental health services across many agencies in Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties, and many peer supporters are ground zero – serving communities that are marginalized, diverse, and in high need.

The Problem We Seek to Address

Some progress has been made toward a just and equitable healthcare system, especially with the implementation of telemedicine. However, access to mental health services remains limited due to societal stigma, shortage of mental health professionals—especially mental health professionals who are culturally competent—availability, and affordability of high-quality services to meet the gap in access.

Financial Support

The Mental Wellness Project is made possible through financial support from Solutions Journalism Network, with the mission to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting on responses to social problems. It seeks to rebalance the news, so that everyday people are exposed to stories that help them understand problems and challenges, and stories that show potential ways to respond.