The kids are not okay: When back to school collides with a youth mental health crisis

Students are struggling with mental health issues due to COVID and its aftereffects. While the youth mental health crisis is well-publicized, solutions are in shorter supply. This article by Shalene Gupta describes the crisis and notes efforts by a client-funded project called The Path Forward, a multi-stakeholder, national-local push to promote evidence-based, data-driven practices and policies with the best chances of increasing equitable access to quality mental health care and accelerating integration of mental health and addiction care into the broader health system.

Quotes from the article:

“There are systemic differences in how we treat mental illness versus physical illness. The healthcare system has made incredible gains in many spaces such as cardiac disease, but we haven’t made gains in mental illness,” says Anna Bobb, an advisor at the Path Forward, which is aimed at reducing systemic inequalities in mental healthcare. “The healthcare system is an important tool for reversing that trend.”

—Anna Bobb, Advisor to the Path Forward

Tom Insel, the former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, noted that teens are doing well in group chat settings where they can bond with other people: “Younger people want a tribe, people they can be vulnerable with, people they can give to and get help from,” he says. “People love that they’re able to help someone.”

—Tom Insel, Former Director of the National Institutes of Health

On the philanthropy side, the Goodness Web, a foundation aimed at creating a network of mental healthcare solutions, handed out $5.3 million in grant money this year to mental health nonprofits, with the eventual goal of donating $100 million. “We’re trying to look for the places where we can make the biggest impact,” says Mark Verdi, one of its founders. This year, one of its grants went to Path Forward, which pushed legislation to improve access to collaborative care through the House of Representatives. Path Forward works with coalitions of clinicians and healthcare purchasers, such as employers and unions, to include more mental healthcare providers in-network and increase their reimbursements.

—Mark Verdi, Founder, The Goodness Web