May 2022 THRIVE | Youth Mental Health
As part of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re spotlighting the state of youth mental health in Whatcom County. Tragically, as many of you have seen in the news, a young person in our community died by suicide earlier this week. So here we are, living the statistics outlined below. We wrestled with whether to post this today or not. We chose to move forward because lives are at stake. It’s that simple; one of you could be the difference in a local child’s life. The picture of youth mental health in our community is not pretty. But there are reasons for hope — and ways for you to help. Read on for more about both.
President & CEO
Youth Mental Health
In a class of 30 Whatcom County 10th graders,
21 are dealing with anxiety;
12 are dealing with depression;
6 have contemplated suicide,
5 have made a suicide plan;
2 have attempted suicide. 
If the numbers fail to shock, it may only be because we’ve been hearing it for years now: rates of childhood mental health concerns and suicide had been rising steadily for at least a decade before the pandemic, when isolation, uncertainty and grief exacerbated the problem, which has been declared a national emergency by leading pediatric groups and merited a rare advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General last December. Earlier this month, the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommended screening children for anxiety at age 8.
There are glimmers of hope, both in terms of health and funding.
While 2021 county data confirm that youth mental health concerns remain high, they are not higher than when last measured in 2018, and there are some signs of improved health behaviors, including a decrease in substance use. Still, what’s true around the country and across our state is true here: despite the commitment and care of organizations and people doing extraordinary work across all sectors, there is simply not enough help to go around — and barriers abound, both for families and the therapists they need.
Resources are increasing. Adding recently approved state funding to county resources totals about $1.3 million to schools for youth behavioral health services annually through this year and next. That’s great news. And it’s not enough. Right now, our community needs more mental and behavioral health professionals to speed equitable access — waiting lists are commonly months, years, if not closed. We also need more screening, education and earlier intervention, family support and measures that address the economic and social barriers that lead to youth mental health challenges. Because ultimately, the goal is not more mental healthcare for kids, it’s healthy youth development that diminishes the need for professional intervention in the first place.
- 988, a suicide prevention line is going into service in WA in July
- Local landscape architect Kristi Park’s focus on inclusive public spaces that make room for teens.
- Great model: Non-profit partnerships with public schools throughout the county puts licensed therapists where they can do the most good – on school grounds.
- Bellingham Public Schools now has a district-wide Mental Health Services Coordinator.
- UW is piloting a bachelor’s training program aiming to transform access in WA state by getting therapists through the education pipeline faster and more cheaply.
What the Whatcom Community Foundation is Doing
- Education: Raising awareness and elevating the issue among policymakers, partners, media, and the public.
- Funding: More than $700,000 to local nonprofits for youth mental and behavioral health since March 2020.
How You Can Help
- Build your skills as a trusted, “askable” adult. Whatcom youth say a trusted adult “listens, shows up, believes them, and says ‘I’m here if you want me’.”
- Share the link to resources and tools (below).
- Give to the Whatcom Youth and Families Fund.
- Give to the Kailia Posey Teen Crisis Intervention Fund.
- Choose from our list of local nonprofits serving youth and families to learn more about and support.
- Invite others interested in youth mental health to give
View the THRIVE Newsletter as e-mailed on 5/04/2022 HERE>