Coming Together to Confront Stigma and Focus on Youth Mental Health

Initiative Help & Hope for YOUth
Grantee Partner Arizona Youth Partnership
Anthony Cicchino, Youth Task Force Leader for Help & Hope for YOUth, talks about how important mental health education and support are for young people to be able to open up, share their stories and ask for help in dealing with their feelings.

School districts, behavioral health providers, law enforcement, county health departments, social services agencies, faith-based and youth serving organizations, young people and individual advocates are collaborating through the Help & Hope for YOUth Alliance to reduce stigma and improve mental health for Southern Arizona’s young people. Composed of more than 50 members, the Alliance is committed to letting young people who are first experiencing signs of mental health conditions know that they are not alone, someone cares about them, and getting help as soon as possible can make a difference. 

The Help & Hope for YOUth initiative is especially needed now as more young people are dealing with anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. According to the CDC, one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 report they have considered suicide because of the pandemic. Yet according to Mental Health America, 60% of youth with depression do not receive any mental health treatment. And stigma is still the main reason young people do not seek help. 

Stigma–bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger, avoidance–keeps children from receiving the understanding, support, and treatment they need. Providing youth with mental health education can be successful in reducing stigma, changing current attitudes and can affect access to care. Once children and teens learn about mental illness being the same as physical illness and the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, it increases their willingness to talk about it and get help. And the earlier a young person can access mental health care, the more effective it can be.