7 Organizations Tackling The Youth Mental Health Crisis

Mature grandmother lays hand on teen grandson to reassure him

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Even pre-pandemic, the United States had a growing children’s mental health crisis on its hands. A 2014-2018 study found that an estimated 16% of children had dealt with mental health conditions in the prior year. 

The pandemic has obviously only exacerbated issues that were already there or added new ones. And it’s not just diagnosable disorders that are on the rise—from March 2020 to October 2020, 25% more children presented to emergency department visits than in the previous year. 

Early intervention has been found to be effective in reducing symptoms before some mental health conditions become too severe. During childhood years, the brain is still at its most malleable, so earlier treatment may help academic, social, and emotional development throughout a child's life.

But getting treatment can be difficult—nationally, the average is one child psychiatrist for every 1800 youths under the age of 18 who need these services. The following organizations help fill in the gaps through advocacy, links to low-cost services as well as providing free resources in the meantime. Here are some of the best ones we found:

7 Organizations Tackling The Youth Mental Health Crisis

While some of the statistics around the youth mental health crisis may be daunting, these organizations—and many more—are devoted to eradicating stigma, providing outreach, and ensuring that youth can access the mental health services they need.

On Our Sleeves

On Our Sleeves is an organization whose mission is to break down any stigma around mental health issues in children. Their main avenue for doing this is providing free evidence-based guides to educate families and advocates on topics ranging from helping boost your child’s confidence to teaching them how to be there when they have a friend in need. 

The name "On Our Sleeves" comes from the idea of wearing one’s heart on their sleeves—and uses graphics and illustrations to show what it would look like if a child could wear their thoughts on their sleeves.

Noteworthy

On Our Sleeves has partnered with GoNoodle, an entertainment site for kids, for a program called All the Feels. In this social-emotional portal, kids can find videos, interactive activities, and blog posts from “The Mooderators” on topics including checklists for what to do when you’re feeling sad or angry.

The Trevor Project

According to a survey, 45% of LGBTQ youth considered attempting suicide last year—and 60% of LGBTQ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were unable to access it.

The Trevor Project is a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning LBGTQ people. Their services include a crisis line (which received 200,000+ calls/chats/texts in 2021) and a social media space called TrevorSpace. 

Noteworthy

Through the Trevor Project’s lobbying efforts, they were able to begin working with the New York State Education Department to help all school districts in the state implement suicide prevention modules into their curricula.

It is estimated that of the 2.5 million students in the New York State public education system, nearly 500,000 students are in schools with no suicide prevention policy at all. And more than 2 million youths are in schools that have no policies that address and identify the LGBTQ populations, as only 2% of the schools have policies specific to this population. 

Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress

The Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress (CPTS) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) treats children who have encountered trauma or stress due to medical care. These traumas may be in reaction to pain, injury, serious illness, medical procedures, or invasive or frightening medical treatments.

Some of the symptoms may include arousal, re-experiencing, or avoidance—similar to more traditional post-traumatic stress disorder. Pediatric medical trauma symptoms may cause ongoing trouble for approximately 20% of children with injuries.

Although CHOP is local to Philadelphia and its surrounding areas, the hospital—and this particular center—have a nationwide impact with their work. The CPTS develops assessments and interventions for healthcare providers working with children that are deployed nationally. The center also trains other health care providers on how to work with pediatric medical traumatic stress through their resources.

Noteworthy

One of the hallmark developments from CPTS is their Pediatric Psychosocial Preventative Health Model. This model incorporates a three-tier approach to addressing medical trauma:

  • Universal: This level is based on an understanding that medical events are distressing on some level to most families. Treatment on this level includes providing general support for social and emotional functioning and discussing pre-existing coping skills
  • Targeted: Children and/or families who have acute stress reactions or risk factors such as prior trauma or experience of loss may need increased support and monitoring of their ongoing stress.
  • Clinical: When families or children reach a level of distress that affects their ability to make decisions or stay the course with treatment, treatment by a mental health professional is recommended as well as the family seeking out greater psychosocial support in their own community.

The Steve Fund 

The Steve Fund is an organization that focuses on supporting mental health of young people of color. It works to advocate for colleges and universities to implement mental health programs, promotes greater knowledge and use of campus mental health services and increases the proficiency of families and mental health organizations working with this demographic. 

Noteworthy

One of the organization’s key initiatives is its Equity in Mental Health on Campus program. Partner institutions will work with the Fund for an 18-month process that involves creating and implementing a strategic plan that develops initiatives specific to their own student population to promote mental wellness among young people of color.

We R Native

We R Native is an organization that is “for native youth, by native youth.” They provide information for Native youth to live healthy and positive lives and feel less alone, from mental health information to cultural information about Native Americans so that they can connect with their heritage.

Noteworthy

IndigiLove is a campaign meant to connect indigenous youths and encourage them to reach out for help when needed. Poetry, filmmaking, and other art are used to teach lessons about self-care and managing one’s mental health.

Annie E. Casey Foundation 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation works to create a better future for children by working to break down barriers in educational, economic, social and health systems. Through research, grant-making and lobbying, they help communities find successful strategies to improve the lives of children and their families.

Noteworthy

It is estimated that 65-70% of those in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health condition. And 2000 children per day are incarcerated solely because mental health services aren’t available to them. One of the areas the Annie E. Casey Foundation focuses on is juvenile justice reform.

Through their Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, the foundation worked with Barenalillo County, New Mexico, to address the mental health challenges of court-involved youth by establishing a community mental health clinic that specializes in working with this population. Other successful outcomes include reducing the lengths of stay in detention as well as reducing recidivism

Child Mind Institute

The Child Mind Institute works to deliver educational resources to children and families dealing with mental health and learning conditions. Some of these resources may include training educators in underserved communities or the research their scientists are doing to develop new and innovative treatments.

They are also committed to working collaboratively with the larger scientific community by making much of their data publicly available and able to be used open-source.

Noteworthy

The Healthy Brain Network is a project that strives to collect imaging and clinical data from thousands of young New Yorkers—and share that information, de-identified, with the wider science community.

As a part of this program, the Healthy Brain Network provides children with a no-cost mental health evaluation and a feedback session with a clinician following their evaluation. The goal of this project is to identify biological markers of psychiatric conditions. 

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health symptoms in school-aged children in four communities.

  2. APA. Children's mental health is in crisis.

  3. Colizzi M, Lasalvia A, Ruggeri M. Prevention and early intervention in youth mental health: is it time for a multidisciplinary and trans-diagnostic model for care?Int J Ment Health Syst. 2020;14:23. doi:10.1186/s13033-020-00356-9

  4. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. AACAP work force fact sheet.

  5. The Trevor Project. 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.

  6. The Trevor Project. Policies to Protect Youth: Suicide Prevention in New York State Schools.

  7. Committee on Government Reform, Waxman HA, Collins S. United States House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform—Minority Staff; 108AD. https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/040707juvenilereport.pdf. 

  8. Mendel R, Feild T. Bernalillo County Mental Health Clinic Case Study. Annie E. Casey Foundation.

By Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT
Theodora Blanchfield is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and mental health writer.