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Youth MHFA Helping Address National Youth Mental Health Crisis

Our nation has a youth mental health crisis. One in six youth and adolescents will experience a mental health condition in any given time, nearly half of teens (44%) report feeling persistently sad and hopeless and 50% of all mental illnesses begin by age 14.

Addressing this crisis requires a comprehensive approach. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is just one piece in a larger effort to connect people in need with mental health and substance use care. And when it comes to surrounding young people with adults who have the skills to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders and provide initial help, schools and youth-serving organizations across the country are leading the way.

Last year, hundreds of thousands of adults were trained in Youth MHFA, which teaches parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff and other caring adults how to help youth who may be experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge or is in crisis.

Indeed, Youth MHFA is one of the fastest growing MHFA programs in the nation. Just looking at the top eight states, the trend and potential impact is clear.

StateAll Time First Aiders
Trained in Youth MHFA
California77,125
Colorado31,654
Florida326,586
Illinois37,100
Michigan34,501
New York64,119
North Carolina36,024
Ohio41,055
Pennsylvania57,040

And there’s every reason to believe this trend will continue. Statewide efforts to implement mental health literacy trainings, including Youth MHFA, for adults who work with young people are underway in several other states, including:

  • In June, Texas passed legislation (HB 3) that laid out a timetable to require that public school employees who regularly interact with students complete mental health training beginning in 2025.
  • Iowa allocated $3.3 million in 2023 to area education agencies for school-based children’s mental health services, including mental health awareness training for educators.
  • Vermont enacted S.197, providing grants in 2022 to in-school counseling programs for staff training on Youth MHFA.
  • New Jersey’s 2022 budget bill appropriated $2.7 million for a teen MHFA pilot.
  • California is considering SB 509, which would require teachers and other school personnel to complete an evidence-based behavioral health training program.

These efforts build on existing efforts in other states. The Florida Legislature enacted a number of policies in the wake of the 2018 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, including a requirement that every school district expand access to mental health literacy training. Nearly 150,000 school personnel in Florida received YMHFA training in the 2022-2023 school year.

Policymakers and educators alike know that expanding people’s ability to recognize and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges is an essential first step — among many — toward a healthier nation.

And you can help. Sign up for Advocacy Alerts. Add your voice to ours and urge your representatives to make mental health literacy curricula like MHFA available in your state. Each and every one of us can be the difference in a young person’s life.

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