Help & Hope for YOUth is a multi-sector initiative of Arizona Youth Partnership. The Help & Hope for YOUth Alliance (formerly the Arizona Youth Mental Health Alliance) was formed in 2017 by the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Arizona (NAMI SA) with University of Arizona partners Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) and the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM). Help and Hope for YOUth was created to expand youth mental health awareness and education in Pima, Cochise, Santa Cruz and Pinal Counties so that more young people will seek help when they begin experiencing symptoms.
Reduce stigma associated with mental health conditions and increase social emotional learning and suicide prevention so that children, youth, and young adults ages 5-24 seek help when experiencing mental or behavioral health issues.
Build capacity to improve youth mental health in Pima, Pinal, Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties.
Key to the long-term success of Help & Hope for Youth is building a strong collaboration of organizations and individuals— the Help & Hope for YOUth Alliance— who understand the importance of stigma elimination and join in advocacy and educational efforts. The Alliance is composed of mental health organizations and providers, school districts and associations, faith, business and community leaders. Activities are directed toward:
Getting information out to the community on stigma (in both English and Spanish)
Promoting help seeking
Ensuring information on resources is widespread and easily available
Developing long-term funding and in-kind support to sustain efforts
Widely disseminate education and training on stigma reduction and information on mental health resources in four counties.
Ending the Silence (ETS), NAMI’s effective stigma reduction program, is being expanded to more middle and high schools throughout Southern Arizona, both directly by NAMI SA staff and volunteers and through training local coordinators and presenters. Text, Talk, Act, a text-messaging platform to guide conversations about mental health, and Not Broken, an Arizona Public Media documentary on youth mental illness, are available to schools and youth-serving organizations now. Other stigma reduction strategies, programs and curricula will be reviewed and made available.
Advocate for State-wide systemic change
The collective leadership of the Help & Hope for YOUth Alliance will enable us to advocate for policy changes in Arizona that serve to reduce stigma and encourage help seeking behavior. Systemic change will involve bringing together major providers of youth mental/behavioral health services, including primary care providers in integrated healthcare settings, and youth, to conduct a dialogue that leads to early intervention and improved access to appropriate mental /behavioral health services.
End the Stigma
Stigma is the single biggest deterrent to mental health treatment and recovery. Stigma keeps 60% of people who could be helped from accessing treatment. Symptoms may begin at age 14 or earlier, yet the stigma associated with mental illness often results in a staggering delay of 8-10 years between onset of symptoms and receiving treatment.
Today, young people are increasingly vulnerable to depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness. According to Mental Health America’s recent report, The State of Mental Health in America 2017, youth depression rates have risen from 8.5% in 2011 to 11.1% in 2014. In Arizona, 13% of youth reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode in the past year and 10% had severe depression; of these, nearly 70% of youth with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment. Currently, Arizona ranks 50th among 50 states and the District of Columbia for youth (12 to 17) with higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care.
Mental illness stigma disproportionately affects help seeking among youth, especially among ethnic minorities. If untreated, mental health disorders can lead to skipping school, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, dropping out or being expelled from school, violence, and suicide or a psychotic episode. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24.
Youth mental health in Arizona is ranked 49 of 51 (Mental Health America, 2022). Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among youth. It is estimated that about 20% of youth experience a mental disorder at any given year. Anxiety, depression, and attention deficit/hyperactivity are some of the most common disorders that children experience. With about 17% of children having a diagnosed mental health issue, prevention and early intervention are key in improving later outcomes in life. Currently, mental health in youth is worsening. According to Mental Health America’s State of Mental Health in America, from 2015-2022, Arizona have remained on the bottom half of the rankings lists from overall ranking, youth and adult individual rankings, and access to care. However, there was an incline for a brief time in rankings, but due to the hit of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the rankings have receded.