Brooke Beyma of Tampa, FL is a college student majoring in psychology, with a focus on working with elementary and high school students. In the article below, Brooke Beyma reports on several major initiatives taking place across the country that are expected to make a difference in the mental wellbeing of young people.
Mental health is a silent epidemic, especially among young people,
Mental health conditions frequently go undiagnosed and untreated, especially among teenagers and young adults. About 6 out of 10 people with mental illnesses either receive no medication or treatment, and that’s especially true for high school and college students.
Children are increasingly being diagnosed. Among those between 2 and 8 years old, 1 in 6 have a behavioral, developmental, or mental disorder.
Brooke Beyma says that’s why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a new approach to support children and young adults suffering from mental illness. The $35 million initiative aims to expand suicide prevention programs and mental health services offered by communities throughout the country.
It’s a part of a new overall push to address the mental health crisis in America, according to the White House.
Seven grant programs are among the major hallmarks of the initiative. Brooke Beyma says among them: Project AWARE, or Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education, focuses on mental health programs infrastructure within schools.
The SFN Program (Statewide Family Network) helps fund mental health organizations that support caregivers and families raising children with emotional difficulties.
Brooke Beyma reports there are also several programs focusing on tackling suicide, including the Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Program which provides grants to support health services for students in college, including those with depression, coping substance abuse, or at risk for suicide.
The Office of Minority Health and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is partnering with HHS on the initiative.
President Joe Biden mentioned the national mental health crisis in his recent State of the Union Address, noting that America is seeing a mental health crisis impacting all ages.
Brooke Beyma explains that depression and anxiety rates were rising in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the health crisis, isolation, and trauma of the event seem to have exacerbated mental health struggles.
In a statement, the White House says that more than 50% of parents say they are concerned for their child’s well-being and mental health. In 2019, a third of high school students say they cope with constant feelings of hopelessness and sadness, up 40% from 2009.
Colorado Targets Early Intervention for Youth
Brooke Beyma reports that lawmakers in Colorado are looking to address behavioral health issues and violence among youth with increased mental health services, decriminalizing offenses among pre-teens, and funding more community-based organizations addressing violence tied to mental health problems.
For political parties in the state, pushing for more mental health and behavioral resources seems to be a common ground. Funding behavioral health programs are part of a new school safety bill that’s garnering bipartisan support.
Colorado lawmakers also introduced new bills to improve mental health services for both adults and children according to Brooke Beyma. They plan to pay for the programs, which include new in-school mental health services and increased training, with pandemic-relief money provided by the federal government.
A New Type of Care Package: Mental Health Kits for College Students
Brooke Beyma explains that college students regularly deal with heightened levels of stress and anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic only added to the struggle for many.
One approach that’s making an impact: mental health kits. Professor Martez Files of the University of Alabama at Birmingham created the kits when he saw many students struggling in his state.
In 2019, the year before the pandemic, Files, who has experienced a mental health crisis himself when he began his Ph.D. studies, created 400 of the kits for students dealing with anxiety, isolation, and depression.
Recently, he provided more than 1,000 kits to help high school students get ready for college in more than 40 schools in rural Alabama.
Kits contain everything from teas, essential oils, and journals to information on local and state mental health resources reports Brooke Beyma. Inspired, UAB students have also handed out mental health kits throughout campus created by national mental health organization Active Minds.
COVID Inspires Mental Health Program at N.C. State
Brooke Beyma reports that following several student suicides at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, leaders across the state are creating mental health programs to reach students in new, urgent ways.
At North Carolina State University, there is a new initiative to train faculty, students, and campus police in what the college called first aid for mental health. It addresses symptoms of mental health difficulties, signs of suicidal ideology, and more.
The college says more of its students have reached out for mental health support over the past two years. The university hopes students who may struggle to find help outside of campus will embrace the new program.