May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May is a big month for folks in our field. It’s a time for Galas and outdoor activities, and it’s National Foster Care Awareness Month. But it’s also Mental Health Awareness Month, so today we’d like to talk about mental health.

Mental health is a part of our work every day. The children we place in foster care and adoptive homes have experienced trauma and abuse; the parents we help at FSS need support in learning how to manage and improve their mental health; many individuals we serve with development disabilities also need mental health support and treatment; some of the residents in our group homes struggle with mental health on a daily basis. Mental health is always a part of the conversation for us, and we try to approach each parent, child, family member and resident with empathy, respect and support. We’d like to share some statistics about mental health in America, as gathered by our friends at the Parent/Professional Advocacy League.

20% of youth ages 13 – 18 have a diagnosed mental health need. 50% of all lifetime mental health needs begin before age 14, and 75% begin before age 24.

At some point in their lives, anxiety affects 30% of children and teens, but 80% of those children and teens are not provided access to treatment. Untreated anxiety in youth is linked to depression, school failure and a 50% increased risk for substance abuse.

34.8% of LGBTQ youth missed at least one day of school in the last month because they felt unsafe at school. LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Rates of mental health needs are particularly high for bisexual, questioning and closeted LGBTQ youth.

About 5.7% of white children are likely to have access to a mental health specialist, but only 2.3% of black and Latinx children have access to the same services. Children of minority backgrounds are less likely to see a mental healthcare provider of their own ethnicity, and lack of cultural understanding by providers contributes to mis- or under-diagnosis of minority youth.

These statistics are representative of the challenges we face not only in our work at CFCS but in the larger field of human and social services. But in partnering with organizations like PPAL, CFCS and our peer organizations can offer more comprehensive and relevant support to the people we serve. This Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re thinking about how we can further support our clients in their mental health needs so they can take care of themselves and form meaningful connections to others in their families, networks and communities.