Building Resilient Communities for Children and Youth
Did you know that 48.3 million Americans are living with a mental health condition? It’s not just strangers, either. Chances are it is someone close to you: a family member or a colleague. Possibly, even you.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and thousands of organizations – including United Way of Greater Atlanta – are educating the public on various mental health topics and raising awareness around the stigmas preventing individuals from seeking care.
When we think about the health of children however, we often overlook how early life experiences affect social and emotional development. These early childhood experiences have lasting consequences later in life.
Consider this: One in five children as young as five years old have a mental health condition. Five-year-olds have an increased chance of dropping out of school or are subject to entering the criminal justice system because their mental illness goes untreated. These numbers disproportionally affect low-income communities – as many do not get treatment due to stigma and socioeconomic barriers that prevent access. In Atlanta, place and zip code matter – and for many children, place is a barrier to accessing quality healthcare.
The National Institutes of Health estimate that 20 percent of 13-18 year olds live with a mental health condition, with the average delay between onset and treatment of symptoms being 8-10 years. Nearly 40 percent of them drop out of school – representing the highest dropout rate of any disability group. Another 70 percent of youth in juvenile justice systems have a mental illness.
United Way of Greater Atlanta funds mental health services for children and teens through community investments and school-based mental health programs throughout Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton counties. These programs provide therapy in the school environment, which help break down barriers to care. And we are seeing results. School attendance has improved, and behavior issues are decreasing.
Interested in learning more? Watch our InForum Partner Engagement Breakfast via Facebook Live as we engage in dialogue around strengthening resiliency in our communities and the “I Am More Than…” mental health campaign.
Ebony Johnson – Manager, Health at United Way of Greater Atlanta.