The health and well-being of children and adolescents has been challenged beyond measure by the COVID pandemic and its associated complications. As youth navigate the years between childhood and adulthood, they undergo pivotal developmental transformations, including exploring individuation alongside cognitive, social, and hormonal transitions. While these times are typically marked by considerable growth, they can be difficult and may lead to mental health struggles that have the potential to progress with increased risk for suicide.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 10-24 years old, with suicide deaths surmounting the combined fatalities from cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections of all kinds, including COVID, influenza, HIV, pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis (Dr. John V Campo, Johns Hopkins). Risks increase in young people who are BIPOC, LGBTQ+, or are in juvenile justice systems or foster care.
Reflecting on the current state of youth mental health, with respect to national surveys on youth mental health challenges and the growing burden of social issues that youth are continually exposed to, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and the Children’s Hospital Association recently issued a declaration of a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health, and the U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory report on the importance of protecting youth mental health.
Despite these grave declarations, a renaissance in mental health awareness and innovation is cause for hope. As noted in the U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory report, we all share responsibility for creating a world that supports young people’s mental well-being. Protecting and supporting youth mental health is a task for families, organizations and communities; including schools, health care systems, technology corporations, media, employers, and government.
Key recommendations include:
- Recognize that mental health is an essential part of overall health.
- Empower youth and their families to recognize, manage, and learn from different emotions.
- Ensure that every child has access to high-quality, affordable, and culturally competent mental health care.
- Support the mental health of children and youth in educational, community, and childcare settings.
- Address the economic and social barriers that contribute to poor mental health for young people, families, and caregivers.
- Increase timely data collection and research to identify and respond to youth mental health needs more rapidly.
As leaders in the integrative mental health domain, this matter is a call to action for us at the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation. That’s why we’ve funded programs supporting youth mental health, like bringing fitness and mind-body practice equipment to adolescent psychiatry units, and the Holistic Life Foundation reaching schools and incarcerated kids.
Mental health IS public health, and we are dedicated to changing the way the world treats mental health, across the lifespan. We are grateful to our ever growing circle of champions – please learn more about supporting our work here.
As shared in the U.S. Surgeon General’s advisory report, we support the following resources for young people:
- If you are in crisis, get immediate help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
- How Right Now (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): Resources for coping with negative emotions and stress, talking to loved ones, and finding inspiration
- Youth Engaged 4 Change: Opportunities for youth to make a difference in their lives and in the world around them
- Supporting Emotional Wellbeing in Children and Youth (National Academies of Medicine): Tools for children, teens, and parents to learn how to cope with challenges
- Mental Health Resource Center (JED Foundation): Information about common emotional health issues and how to overcome challenges
- Youth Wellbeing Initiatives (National Council for Mental Wellbeing): Collection of initiatives to improve mental wellbeing in youth and young adults
- Kids, Teens, and Young Adults (National Alliance on Mental Illness): Resources for young people to get mental health support
- One Mind PsyberGuide: A guide to navigating mental health apps and digital technologies
- FindTreatment.gov (SAMHSA): Information on substance use and mental health treatment
- Trevor Project: Suicide prevention and crisis intervention resources for LGBTQ+ young people
- AAKOMA Mental Health Resources (The AAKOMA Project) Resources to support the mental health of youth of color and their caregivers
- Mental Health for Immigrants (Informed Immigrant): Tips for managing the mental health of yourself and others
And check out our resources here to build your ecosystem of interacting components to support your mental and emotional well-being.