America is in the midst of a youth mental health crisis, what can we do about it?

Over 20% of youth in Juvenile or Foster systems felt unsafe, 30% experienced some kind of traumatic event, and 74% were either homeless or in unsafe living conditions after they were released from these systems. As of 2020, about 2 million youth in America are suffering from severe depression which has seen a 4.35% increase over that last 6 years. About 60% of the youth who have severe depression do not receive any kind of treatment for it.

As far as the juvenile system goes there is room for improvement to say the least. Ethnic minorities made up over half of the juvenile cases in 2018. So what would improving this system look like?

I would add cultural education and workshops on positive identity building for these youth… I would also try to increase the number of healing and restorative practices that surround these young people.  They’ve been through a lot and they need to know that they have value, that they come from a culture that has traditions they should be proud of,” said Greg Garcia, Claudia Jasin, and Bina Lefkovitz of citiesRISE.

 

With the current pandemic it is harder for youth to be able to see their therapists, friends, or whatever other support systems they may have. However there are plenty of online services designed to help in times like these.

 

“There are great services that were in person before but now are online.  Get involved with organizations like The Source Sacramento, Youth Help Network, Cal Voices, Impact SAC, IQ Squad, La Familia, Asian Resources.  All these organizations have youth programs that are helping young people deal with isolation and other issues youth are facing right now,” said Greg, Claudia, and Bina.

 

Luckily many youth lean more towards online services. However not all young people fit the stereotype of being tech savvy and many may not have access to online services as we saw with the abrupt move to online schooling a few months ago.

 

“There’s what people call a ‘tech divide’ in our society right now which makes it harder to reach more of the youth we’re talking about here if they don’t have access to a smart phone or computer. What we’re trying to do at citiesRISE is to help young people create new interventions where they can rely on their peers for support with the more minor mental health issues, whether it’s training youth with the mental health equivalent of ‘CPR’ where they can be the first responders for their friends in need.  Hopefully we’ll see the system adopt similar attitudes towards peer-to-peer support,” said Greg, Claudia, and Bina.

 

Fortunately, even though we are in the middle of a youth mental health crisis, community members are rising up to help. If you need help please reach out to any of the resources mentioned in this article.