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Mental Health: How We Help the Growing Number of Struggling Youth


Published May 20, 2022 • by AHIP

There was a growing mental health crisis in America before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last couple of years have only increased the number of people struggling to maintain a healthy mind. Unfortunately, much of the acute suffering is being experienced by some of the most at-risk groups: young children and teens.

The U.S. Surgeon General has called the pandemic’s mental toll on young people “unprecedented” and “devastating.” In Fall of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Children’s Hospital Association also declared child and adolescent mental health a national emergency. And in March of 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that a stunning 44% of high school students surveyed reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless during the past year.

Mental health problems can be catastrophic for families and communities, and children and young people are no exception to this reality. Health insurance providers know the issue requires close attention and care — and fast. It’s why they are working to make it easier for young people to get help by easing access to telehealth appointments, integrating mental health support into primary care visits, and working to increase the number of mental health care professionals trained to work with adolescents.

Health insurance providers are also taking charge by launching their own programs and partnerships to make mental health support more accessible.

Here are a few recent examples of how they are living up to their commitment to help adolescents who are struggling:

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is providing members 13 and older with access to online mental health assessments and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for mild to moderate depression, substance use, social anxiety, insomnia, and anxiety.
  • In Sioux Falls, Avera Health Plans opened the Helmsley Behavioral Health Center to expand psychiatric service capacity for children, youth, and adults. The 60,000 square foot center also provides 24/7 mental health urgent care, observation care, youth addiction care services, and partial hospitalization for youth.
  • Superior HealthPlan is working to confront cyberbullying by participating in the Centene Institute Youth Impact Award for Cyberbullying Prevention — an opportunity for young artists between the ages of 14-19 to submit their own visual art entry on the theme of cyberbullying awareness and prevention.
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) has awarded Alliance for Youth a $50,000 Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® (HKHF) grant. The funding will support efforts to improve well-being, reduce depression, prevent suicide, and prevent substance abuse among youth. It will also support parents and guardians struggling with substance abuse, encourage nurturing parenting, and reduce child abuse and neglect.
  • Kaiser Permanente developed a national mental health initiative for teens and young adults who participate in esports and online gaming communities — supporting nearly 51,000 gamers with effective training and resources. In Hawaii, Kaiser Permanente also awarded $100,000 in grants to Adult Friends for Youth and Mental Health America of Hawaii. Both grants aim to improve the health and well-being of Hawaii’s most vulnerable children.

Mental health support should be available for every patient who needs it, including the most vulnerable kids and teens. Learn more about the ways to access care here.