Glimmers of Hope

Glimmers of Hope

Due to the lingering pandemic, 2021 left Americans grappling with “covid fatigue” and an enormous amount of uncertainty and change. At the same time, many of us began re-evaluating our larger values, priorities, and life choices in positive ways.

If there is a silver lining to the disruption of the past 20 months, it’s that the pandemic’s seismic cultural ‘unsettling,’ has finally ripped back the curtain on mental health challenges and pushed us as a society to recognize that mental health struggles are real, pervasive, and all-too-common – and that they affect people of all ages, including children. The recent release of The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory Protecting Youth Mental Health, highlighted the need for making youth mental health a national priority.

To a degree previously unimaginable, conversations about mental health are now taking place. Celebrities, professional athletes, executives, and more have shared their personal struggles. Discussions about mental health struggles and mental wellness proliferate everywhere from schools to boardrooms to social media. People are finally recognizing and accepting their own mental health problems and those of their loved ones, and we are realizing as a society that all of us are better off if none of us struggles alone.

The negative impacts of the pandemic on mental health will unfortunately persist long after life is “back to normal.” Seventy-one percent of parents report their child’s mental health deteriorated in the past two years, and 64% report that they expect that this will affect their child’s long-term development.

And, the increased number of people acknowledging and experiencing escalating mental health problems is monumentally straining our already overburdened and underfunded mental health care “system.” The current need for services far exceeds the number of available therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, residential treatment facilities, and partial hospitalization programs.

Finding the mental health resources a child needs — always a difficult undertaking – is more confusing, costly, and stressful than ever. While parents and caregivers may now have a better understanding of the mental health problems affecting young people, they unfortunately also need more help than ever to support those young people.

The good news is, The Youth Mental Health Project has been preparing for this moment and we will not let this opportunity pass without expanding help for families.

In 2021, The Youth Mental Health Project™ served nearly 600 parents and caregivers through The Parent Support Network™. In the coming year, we are poised to double that number to  1,200 and offer The Parent Support Network– both in person and virtually — to more parents and caregivers in more, and more diverse, communities across the country.

Already, we have launched a new Intergenerational Support Group to serve extended family members who want to assist grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, etc. and we are on track to create Spanish language groups and individualized support groups targeted to caregivers of elementary, middle, and high school students, and young adults. 

In 2021, nearly 1,200 parents and caregivers attended our educational webinars and over 35,000 people accessed our website to get educated about the youth mental health crisis. In 2022, we are ready to offer even more high-quality programming and resources. We also expect to get back on the road again, crisscrossing the country to put mental health on the agenda at community events and further dismantle the shame, blame, misunderstanding, and silence that persist.

Our team has been growing to be ready for this breakthrough moment. Over the past several months, we have added six(!) new, talented members to our Board of Directors, and we hired a Director of Development to help us fund all we are envisioning. We are energized by the opportunity in front of us, and we are determined to be there for the growing number of families looking for help.

In May, during Mental Health Awareness Week, we were honored to host The Mental Health Monologues, an incredibly special event which featured first-hand stories from young people who have struggled with their mental health. I encourage you to watch the recording here if you missed the live show. It was raw and beautiful and powerful – and led by our children.

The honesty and determination of these young adults — and others in our midst who are launching mental wellness clubs at their schools, creating mental health curricula for younger kids, launching new products and other creative endeavors to raise money for YMHP — inspire me and our team every day to optimism about where mental health care in this country can and will go. 

As we head into 2022, the conversation about mental health in this country is definitively at a turning point and the future of how we think about, talk about, and treat mental health is wide open. The good news is, The Youth Mental Health Project is ready, and change is finally coming.

Happy New Year!