Let’s Get Mental Health Help to our Youth! – Mar 22, 2024


Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents Doubled in 10 Years

Suicide rates among U.S. adolescents has doubled in 10 years. Half of kids who take their own lives have never had access to any mental health services before making that terminal decision.

These two facts alone demonstrate that children are dealing with an unprecedented mental health crisis. These unprecedented times call for innovative solutions to save our children.

Pennsylvania kids from both wealthy and low-wealth communities suffer from nearly the same rates of general anxiety and depression, as well as more intensive issues of suicidal thoughts. Four out of ten PA students report feeling sad or depressed most of the time; 16% planned their suicide and 12% attempted suicide. Children First is responding to this crisis and building the support statewide to respond.

And a real response means tearing down the obstacles to good and ample mental health care – end the long waiting lists to see a professional, address the lack of culturally competent providers, and end the complications associated with needing a formal diagnosis to get services.

Imagine being a young child fraught with emotions and worries and being told there are hoops to jump through before someone can listen to them…get them better. We heard over and over again from the youth and mental health professional at our webinar on adolescent mental health that this is the reality. And we heard that better services with ready access to preventative and early mental health services will decrease the share of children who require intensive care to lead a healthy life. 

And we know that better services need to be paid for. That’s why we say:

Medicaid reform can and must be the salve our children are needing.

Why focus on Medicaid?  Because that’s the insurer for nearly every other child in the state. The new report, Optimizing Medicaid to Improve Child and Youth Mental Health in PA, includes five specific administrative reforms that, if adopted, would result in:

  • More prevention, early intervention, and targeted services, especially in schools,
  • More diverse and culturally competent certified mental health professionals with a range of experiences and backgrounds, and
  • More parents able to get mental health support for themselves from their kids’ pediatrician offices.

The Children First team is building a statewide network who will advocate for these changes so that children can access the mental health services they need. You can be part of this effort by contacting Kate Fox, the Children First Behavioral Health Policy Coordinator.   

It’s imperative that we do everything we can to give children and teens critical mental health support. They’re literally crying out for it.

Speak directly with your lawmakers about increasing public education funding.

Join us for one or all of our education advocacy days in the state capital. We’ll handle making the appointments and other details – just click here to learn more and sign up.

A candidate running for superintendent of public instruction in North Carolina once tweeted that President Barak Obama should be the subject of “a pay-per-view of him in front of a firing squad,” adding, “We could make some money back from televising his death.” She’s called for the execution of other public officials over the years.

Join Children First and PA Schools Work on Wednesday at noon for a deep dive into Shapiro’s K-12 public education budget proposal. The webinar will also explain some of the policy lingo around the budget – like “adequacy methodology” or “tax equity proposal.” Register here and learn a lot! 
“We have to stop violence in the city, period.
That means investing in young people,
making sure kids have enriching activities to
do after school and over the summer and on
weekends as well. Too many of our kids are
dying unnecessarily.”

– Philadelphia grandmother Geanna Williams-
Davis, speaking at the Children First press
conference on the status of Philly’s kids