Good mental and behavioral health is essential for youth to thrive in their lives - from their homes to schools to their relationships and beyond. Youth mental health was identified as a priority need in Community Health Needs Assessments in Western Massachusetts prior to COVID-19. This need was made worse by the unprecedented challenges our youth faced during the pandemic. An estimated 45% of youth responding to the MDPH COVID-19 Community Impact Survey reported sustained depressive symptoms that impacted their daily activity in the fall of 2020. This finding is consistent with the high levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms reported from school-based youth surveys in our region.
Over the past year, the PHIWM has been convening people to create a mental health roadmap for Western Massachusetts. It focuses on mental health wellness promotion and prevention of mental health conditions. This roadmap builds off the work of the Commonwealth’s Promote and Prevent Commission, led by former State Representative Jim Cantwell and staffer Benjamin Thomas, and the 2018 report, Behavioral Health Promotion and Upstream Prevention.
This Roadmap also complements the much-needed work underway focusing on treatment, crisis services, and workforce needs as outlined in the 2021 MA Behavioral Health Roadmap. While important, this is just one piece of the puzzle. Similar infrastructure and funding are needed for prevention and promotion.