Help & Hope for YOUth seeks to bring about systemic change by reducing stigma associated with mental illness through mental health and social emotional learning education and help to reduce suicide and encourage youth (ages 5-24) to seek help and receive the mental health care they need when they first experience symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. Started by the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Arizona in 2017 and following a community readiness assessment, the Help & Hope for YOUth Alliance was formed to increase mental health education and early intervention and to improve access to appropriate mental/behavioral health services.
The initiative transferred to Arizona Youth Partnership in January 2021 to create the opportunity for Statewide expansion and provide infrastructure support for the Help & Hope for YOUth Alliance. Help & Hope for YOUth began with three task forces–Education & Training, Capacity Building, and Advocacy & Policy. A primary goal of the initiative, a statewide mandate to require mental health education in Arizona schools, was passed by the Arizona legislature in 2021. Educating youth about mental health and providing greater access to care will aid in reducing substance abuse, school absenteeism and disciplinary actions, self-harm and suicide, and improve graduation rates and long-term prospects for youth.
Since inception, the School-Based Behavioral Health Services Coalition, and the YOUth Task Force, which play key roles in achieving the mission, have been added. Help & Hope for YOUth recognizes that approaches to mental health are most effective when developed and implemented with involvement from those intended to be served. The members of the Alliance believe in the concept of “nothing about us without us” and that services for youth should be driven by youth.
Funding from the David and Lura Lovell Foundation will support development of a Cross-Systems Mental Health Mapping toolkit and training, including evidence-based and promising care practices. As Help & Hope for YOUth expands from four to 11 counties, the toolkit will aid communities in identifying and growing resources to meet the mental health needs of children, youth, young adults and families.
How You Can Help
Reduce the stigma around mental health conditions. Sharing your story and listening to the stories of others can offer encouragement and promote understanding and empathy. Volunteer to participate in mental health education or become a presenter. Donate to support providing mental health education for all youth in Arizona. Support our advocacy efforts to improve the state of youth mental health and join our movement by becoming a member of the Help & Hope for YOUth Alliance.
COVID-19 has exacerbated the youth mental health crisis, with youth ages 11-17 being more likely than any other age group to score moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. From March to October of 2020, the proportion of emergency department visits related to mental health increased 24 percent for children aged 5-11 and spiked 31 percent among adolescents aged 12-17. Even before the pandemic, depression and anxiety were on the rise in children 6-17.
To meet the demand, Help & Hope for YOUth is extending the age of the population served through this initiative to 5-24 and looks to expand throughout the state, identifying available mental health resources and education in the communities that need it most. Support is needed to create and disseminate a statewide mental health stigma reduction and suicide prevention campaign with educational outreach for children, youth, families, caregivers, and the community. Help & Hope for YOUth will continue to advocate for systemic changes for youth mental health and improved access to care.
Arcelia Cornidez, Project Director