Campus News

UK Social Work, CAFE, Cooperative Extension, 4-H partner to support youth mental health

Getty Image of Children in Tree
PeopleImages, iStock/Getty Images Plus

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 5, 2023) — A new collaborative initiative at the University of Kentucky is working to better support children and teens struggling with mental health challenges with the help of summer camps, which provide positive experiences by building social skills and creating supportive networks.

Poor mental health among young people is a severe and growing problem across the U.S.  

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 36% of adolescents experienced persistent sadness or hopelessness, and more than 15% experienced a major depressive episode in 2019.

To better support the well-being of young people, the College of Social Work (CoSW) has partnered with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE) and UK Cooperative Extension Service to launch the 4-H Camp Behavioral Health Fellow Program. 

The initiative works to hire and train qualified behavioral health specialists — ultimately increasing the capacity to address mental health issues of campers. 

“We are grateful for this new partnership in the spirit of collaboration through the UK Engage program,” Nancy Cox, dean of CAFE, said. “The College of Social work is indispensable to our 4-H program.” 

The 4-H Camp Behavioral Health Fellow Program focuses on camp preparedness, educational outreach and engagement, real-time incident response, and service connection and communication.  

Fellows will be tasked with educating camp counselors on the signs of and strategies surrounding mental and behavioral health issues, as well as be available to respond to incidents that occur during camp. They will also work with young people, their caregivers and camp personnel to coordinate services prior to and after attending camp experiences.

Fellows, who will be enrolled in the graduate program in the CoSW, will participate in a variety of practice-oriented activities, including multi-modal training, field practicum and educational continuum. The training will also include behavioral and mental health field rotations, camp-based simulation exercises and 4-H research experiences. 

“This innovative program will go a long way in bolstering behavioral and mental health supports to young people, caregivers and communities across the Commonwealth,” Jay Miller, dean of the College of Social Work, said. “What’s more, this approach embodies the principles set forth by Provost DiPaola’s Quality Enhancement Plan, Transdisciplinary Educational approaches to advance Kentucky.”    

The first cohort of 4-H Camp Behavioral Health Fellows will begin the field portion of the program this summer. 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.