Mental health is central to everyone’s well-being, particularly adolescents, teens, and young adults. Our youth are active in their communities where they initiate growth, lead and contribute. However, in many cases, some young people face additional challenges that can take a toll on their well-being, including suffering from mental illness. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen youth as the focus of World Mental Health Day 2018 with its theme, “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.”
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Each new school year brings a mixture of emotions for students, whether they are heading off to pre-school through post-graduate studies. They may mourn the end of summer but look forward to seeing friends. They may be excited about new challenges but worry about academic pressure and peer pressure. As developing minds process these emotions, they often complicate emerging or ongoing behavioral health issues. Given that one-half of mental illnesses begin before age 14 and three quarters before age 25, it is critical, therefore, for students to have access to high-quality behavioral health services.
Depression among youth is a serious problem that is becoming more widespread. According to SAMHSA’s most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), depression is increasing among young adults and adolescents. The NSDUH found that the percentage of youth aged 18-25 who reported a major depressive episode in the previous year increased from 8.3 percent in 2011 to 9.3 percent in 2014. Even more concerning, the percentage of youth aged 12-17 with depression increased from 8.2 percent to 11.4 percent in the same time period.
Helping those with serious mental illness (SMI) and serious emotional disturbance (SED) and their loved ones is critically important to SAMHSA and is a core component of our mission. And we cannot do it alone. That is why SAMHSA is so fortunate to have the help and partnership of so many other federal and state agencies. Working within HHS and across agencies to focus the collective support on SMI and SED issues means that SAMHSA can have an even bigger positive impact despite very limited resources.By a ratio of 7 to 1, the Medicare and Medicaid programs outspend all other federal programs for services for children, youth and adults with mental illnesses, including SMI.
The holidays are a time for fun and celebration, but, unfortunately, also a time of risk for young people. On an average December day, more than 11,000 young people, aged 12 to 17, will use alcohol for the first time. Some of these young adults will not make it to the new year, as nearly 400 young people under age 21 die from alcohol-related causes every month.
Over five million 14-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. are out of school and not working. In many cases, they face the additional challenges of being low-income, homeless, in foster care, or involved in the justice system. Today, in response, five federal agencies are coming together to offer communities support in overcoming the obstacles they face in achieving better outcomes for “disconnected youth,” and those at risk of becoming disconnected.
For the next 100 days (application deadline: March 4. 2015), states, tribes, and municipalities can apply to become a Performance Partnership Pilot (P3). These pilot communities will test innovative, cost-effective, and outcome-focused strategies for improving results for disconnected youth.