Children and adolescents are experiencing alarming increases in the prevalence of mental, emotional, and behavioral health conditions. Although mental health concerns have been rising at a rapid pace during the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend was underway long before the pandemic began.
Mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders are a major source of morbidity for children and adolescents and have become the most common illnesses that children experience. The problem is large, and growing, with increasing rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. The number of youths experiencing a major depressive episode has nearly doubled, and suicide has risen to the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults, surpassed only by motor vehicle fatalities.
Despite this serious and growing problem, many are unable to access treatment. The problem of access to care is complex, due in no small part to both provider shortages and a maldistribution of services. Stigma and other social factors coupled with uncertainties about care seeking also create barriers for youth in need of behavioral health services.
The Citizens Research Council of Michigan’s recently-published research finds that schools are uniquely suited to assist with youth mental health concerns. Youth spend much of their time in schools, providing numerous opportunities for the identification of mental health concerns and referral to treatment. As places centered around learning, schools are also the perfect place to deliver information about mental health and teach skills that foster resilience. Because schools are also venues of socialization and psychological development, they are important settings for dismantling stigma and normalizing treatment-seeking behaviors.
The forum highlighted the research and engaged a panel of representatives from education, mental health, and business.
Stacey M. Berg, Director of Clinical Services, Family & Children’s Services
John M. Searles, Superintendent, Midland County ESA
Emily Lyons, Director of Innovation and Small Business, Midland Business Alliance