Recently, Deborah Klein Walker, the Immediate Past President of the Global Alliance and a member of the Forum For Children’s Well-Being, participated in a workshop to discuss dissemination strategies for the newly released report, State of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health (MEB) of Children and Youth in the United States.
In the last ten years, the evidence-base about the influences of mental, emotional, and behavioral (MEB) development has expanded greatly (see report Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda). Despite this, the United States has not fully acted on the information, which has resulted in an increasing number of children and youth with MEB challenges. Currently, 31.9% of children and youth have anxiety; 19.1% have behavioral disorders; 14.3% have depression and 11.4% have substance disorders. Suicide is the second most common cause of death for youth, ages 15 to 24 years, and the third most common for youth, ages 10-14 years.
Families and youth must be involved in designing the dissemination strategies for their communities and states to educate the public about MEB development and the major investments needed for MEB promotion, prevention, treatment and maintenance. The leadership of organizations such as the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health and Family Voices must be engaged continuously to work with families and youth in designing effective strategies. Similarly, Youth MOVE National, an independent organization of youth leaders across the country, should be engaged in developing programs and policies that affect them. All of these organizations have “chapters” in most of the states that foster family and youth engagement at the local and state levels. Working together, we can create the political will and design social strategies for an agenda to improve MEB health. Unless families and youth are engaged in the process, these efforts will not be effective.