May 2020, Vol. 6, No. 5
RAISE The Standard Newsletter
Raising the Standard for Young Adults with Disabilities
Technical Assistance and Resources for RSA-funded
Parent Training and Information Centers
Mental Illness, Isolation and Transition
During COVID-19
Transition is a challenging time for anyone moving from school to adult life, but for those with mental illness and other “invisible” conditions, it can be especially challenging. Research shows that one in 5 teens aged 12-18 have at least one mental health disorder.

Among the more common mental disorders that can be diagnosed in childhood are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and behavior disorders. This issue of RAISE The Standard focuses on resources for teens with mental illness as they transition to adult life, and touches on how the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified some of the challenges.

National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT) has issued guidance on Transition resources during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wondering about how to access rehab services during COVID? The US Department of Education has issued a guidance Q&A on applying for services.
“Pandemics and mental illnesses are best friends They both find ways of triggering your paranoia.”

– Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman

Disability advocates Dr. Josie Badger, Alisa Grishman and Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman share what they're struggling with, and laughing at, during the stay-at-home orders

“What you resist, persists. The more I live WITH my disorders, the more power I have to control them.”
-  Kevin

You are not alone: We appreciate these compelling personal stories collected by NAMI. Here, Kevin, who has ADHD, Dyslexia, Bipolar and PTSD, shares his story of his road to wellness.

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Q&A: Guidance for Youth with Mental Illness and Families on Transition to Adult Life

This Q&A developed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, offers advice and guidance to youth with mental illness and families to help make the transition to adult life.

Q: What steps should you take to get ready for college or work if you have a mental health issue?

A: Planning should start with treatment providers (doctors and therapists) as early as 1–2 years before the transition. Planning should include:

  • practicing daily life skills - everything from managing money to taking care of hygiene
  • learning about your diagnosis and what to tell employers, teachers, or school
  • practicing taking charge of your healthcare, such as making appointments, filling prescriptions, taking medications consistently, learning how to use your health insurance
  • learning where and how to get help, for example from your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), the school’s Student Counseling and Student Disability Centers, or treatment providers in the new local community

Q: What are the rights of young adults in regard to keeping health care information confidential and the rights of parents in regard to getting health care information about their adult children?

A: Decisions on how much communication the young adult wants and will allow between their family and treatment providers should be made before the young person moves out of the family home or leaves for college. This should include the signing of consent forms by the young adult if they want their family to communicate with their treatment providers. Protection of personal health care information is determined by a set of federal laws known as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) as well as state statutes. Another federal law called FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) protects student records and applies to college students. It is important to know that anyone with serious concerns about the health and safety of a family member or friend can always contact the local police, employee assistance program, or student health/counseling center of the young adult even without signed consent.

Q: Are there tips that can help with being consistent with treatment, such as taking medication as recommended and/or keeping therapy appointments?

A: Practice (or have your child practice) taking care of mental health and medical needs while still in high school. For example, learn (or teach your child) how to use insurance, fill a prescription, and schedule and keep track of appointments. Taking advantage of technology such as one of the many available "Medication Reminder", "Appointment Reminder", and "Mood Log" apps can be very helpful. If possible, plan to meet with new treatment providers before ending treatment with your old providers and make sure to request communication between them.
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DIGITAL RESOURCES offers a terrific array of digital resources. The materials are offered in French, English and Spanish and include resources for teens, parents and educators.

Promoting Positive Pathways to Adulthood (PPPA) is an online knowledge transition initiative that was developed to address the need for well-trained service providers to work with youth and young adults in the transition years who have mental health needs.

Funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) ,and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and developed by Portland University School of Social Work in 2020, the training integrates the best available practice and research knowledge on how to increase the engagement of transition age youth with serious mental health challenges in services. The training modules are designed to build the capacities of direct service providers, including peer support providers and family support providers who are working with youth and young adults aged 14-29 who have mental health difficulties, and their families.

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NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s ‘go to’ resource center for information, referral and support for those with mental illness. We turn to them for a 101 review of mental illness.

What IS mental illness:

  • When is normal sadness, depression?
  • When are normal mood swings bipolar? 
  • When is normal worry anxiety?
  • When is normal planning and preparation obsessive?


The COVID-19 crisis is increasing risk for those living in homes where there is family violence. Social isolation, disrupted routines, financial and/or food insecurity, suspension of in-person schooling and ongoing uncertainty are exacerbating dangerous conditions for some children and youth who may not already be considered at risk.

Children and youth who experience physical, sexual, family violence and/or neglect no longer have a safe refuge at school, nor do they have access to a trusted adult to talk to in person and watch out for them. An increase in mental health concerns for parents can impact children and youth, putting them at higher risk for family violence and child abuse.

The University of British Columbia offers these questions that professionals can ask:

Question to ask teens and youth

  • What have you been doing this past week?
  • What has been enjoyable? What has been difficult?
  • Is there anything you or your family need(s)?
  • Do you have any concerns you would like to share?

Questions to ask parents

  • How are you managing right now?
  • Are you able to find some relief during your day?
  • Do you need help meeting particular challenges?
  • Is there anything we can do to help you meet your child’s needs?

REMINDER: If you know family violence or abuse is occurring, call your states child protective services agency. If danger is imminent, call 9-1-1.

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Voices4Hope is a place for teenagers and young adults with mental health conditions to find resources and stigma busting information that can help us lead happy and independent lives.

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The goal of the STELLAR (Supporting Transition to Engaged Lives by Linking Agency Resources) project is to assist transition-age youth (14-26) with disabilities, their parents, family members, guardians and advocates; or other authorized representatives of the individual to effectively engage in vocational, independent living, and rehabilitative services.

Based in Missouri, STELLAR is one of 7 RSA PTIs nationwide that provides various training and programming to youth/young adults with disabilities and their families, professionals, and other PTIs on the issues surrounding Youth Transition, the period of time between adolescence and adulthood. They are funded by the Rehabilitation Service Administration (RSA) under the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), which is part of the US Department of Education.

Some of the resources from STELLAR include a disability disclosure fact sheet...

“For many people with mental illnesses COVID-19 has been particularly triggering. We’re isolated and lonely; food and resources are limited; connecting with your therapist and psychiatrist requires a smartphone or a computer as well as internet access and privacy; and you might have lost your job or are experiencing financial strain.”

This month, we bring you perspectives from Dr. Rachel Kallem Whitman, an educator, advocate and writer. Her candid blog about living with bipolar disorder during the COVID crisis sheds light on the challenges faced by those with mental illness, and the need for self-care. and sometimes, medication.

Mark Your Calendar

June 16-18, 2020
National APSE Conference, Denver, CO.

June 23, 2020,
11:00 a.m. PT / 2:00 p.m. ET
Pathways RTC Webinar
Advanced Skills for Youth and Young Adult-Driven Practice: Recognizing and Managing the Urge to Lead

July 20-24, 2020
Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) Conference
Palm Desert, CA.

October 15-16, 2020
The Spirit of Resilience
National Caregivers Conference, Philadelphia, PA.
Collaboration • Empowerment • Capacity-building

RAISE The Standard enewsletter identifies and shares resources that the Rehabilitation Services Administration Parent Training and Information Centers (RSA-PTI) can use and share with families.
Executive Editor:
Peg Kinsell
Visit our Website:
RAISE, the National Resources for Access, Independence, Self-Advocacy and Employment is a user-centered technical assistance center that understands the needs and assets of the RSA-PTIs, coordinates efforts with the Technical Assistance provided by PTI centers and involves RSA-PTIs as key advisors and partners in all product and service development and delivery.
US Department of Education official seal
RAISE is funded by the US Department of Education to provide technical assistance to, and coordination of, the 7 PTI centers (RSA-PTIs). It represents collaboration between the nation's two Parent Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) and the seven Regional PTIs.