Covid-19 and its repercussions have taken a huge toll globally, and the effects on children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing have been overwhelming.
In February of 2020, depression and anxiety among young people were at a two-decade high, according to the CDC. A crisis was already unfolding, and adequate support was lacking — and then came the Covid-19 pandemic.
Students have experienced academic strain from school closures — and now re-openings — and psychological trauma due to family and community deaths, economic insecurity, the frustration of paused social lives and cultural activities, and in some cases even physical violence and abuse. It’s no wonder data is showing drastic increases in stress, anxiety and depression among young people.
With these exponential increases in depression and anxiety, we need coordinated efforts to support this generation. We need passionate investors to work with the private, public and nonprofit sectors to increase access to mental health services and resources.
Before the pandemic, student mental health was woefully underfunded. Covid-19 has brought the topic to the forefront, with more organizations, investors and businesses across the country raising awareness of the issues, reducing stigma, expanding their services beyond in-person reach – and ultimately, putting dollars behind this cause. The increased focus on mental health amid the pandemic provides potential for additional funding to reprioritize the mental wellness of our children.
We must move with urgency. There is much that must be done.
More financial support is needed to combat the gap in financial investment in children’s mental health and improve access to care, especially for vulnerable communities which are hardest hit by Covid-19 and experiencing ongoing social injustice and inequities. Giving for mental health accounted for only 1.3% of overall foundation investments between 2015-2018 – despite affecting roughly 20% of Americans.
Here are three ways corporate givers can help close the funding gap on mental health:
- Review your funding approach. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen investors begin shaping their social justice and responsibility work by allocating more funds to these causes. What is often left out is the lens in which these initiatives intersect with children’s mental health. If your organization is already contributing to causes like social justice, criminal reform, or increasing diverse talent in your industry as part of your funding approach, it’s a miss to disregard allocating at least a small portion of your portfolio to children’s mental health, as it will go a long way to impact your overall goals.
- Support innovation. Organizations are working to create solutions, but many of them lack proper funding and support, due in part to insufficient public awareness. For that reason, the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health launched our inaugural Innovation Awards (of which winners will be announced in October with a showcase event in November). These awards will also help funders to identify and support transformative mental health care solutions for our nation’s youth. As an investor, seek out opportunities – like the Innovation Awards – to fund new solutions that can truly make a difference. Without it, these platforms and initiatives may never make it off the ground and into the lives of children that need it most.
- Raise awareness. Learn more about the far-reaching impacts of children’s mental health issues and spread the knowledge. The WHO found that half of all mental health conditions start by 14 – but most cases go undetected and, sadly, untreated. Advocate within your network for more attention on and awareness of children’s mental health issues and mental health challenges overall. Fight stigma, talk openly and look for expert resources.
Together, we can begin to close the funding gap and get the job done.
Joan Steinberg is president of the Morgan Stanley Foundation, and CEO of the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health’s Advisory Board.
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Andrew is half-human, half-gamer. He’s also a science fiction author writing for BleeBot.