Like Lady Gaga’s dance hits, her nonprofit Born This Way Foundation is all about empowerment. She and her mom founded it to help teens take control of their mental wellness.
This week, the organization released a survey showing most young people in California are willing to seek help with mental health, but roughly half aren’t sure where to go. The survey was done in partnership with California’s Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission.
The findings could give school districts and community youth centers more insight on what teens are dealing with, and how to connect them to the services they need. The need for solutions has become dire as teen suicide and depression rates continue to climb.
Of the 485 13- to 24-year-olds surveyed, half said they never, or rarely, talk to someone about mental health. But 8 out of 10 said they’re looking to learn coping skills.
“More and more youth are understanding and becoming advocates for this idea of mental wellness,” said Stan Collins, a suicide prevention specialist for California mental health campaign Each Mind Matters.
“How do we make our youth more resilient?" he said. "They want to be taught better skills on how to deal with stress, and how to deal with the pressures they’re feeling, whether it’s from academic pressure, communicating with their parents, social media.”
Experts say the disconnect is due to a lack of resources. Many schools have too few counselors for too many students. Even when the counselor is in, students may not know there are services available or may be too embarrassed to get help.
According to the survey, young people were more likely to get help it was free, easy to get to, and didn’t involve notifying their parents.
Bianca Christian, a program manager with the California Youth Crisis Line, said more on-campus mental health resources could prevent disruptive behavior in schools.
“Kids often manifest mental health challenges in different ways … even the kids who are bullying other children, they’re dealing with anxiety or they might be dealing with trauma.”
A bill in the California Legislature this year could allocate funding for more counselors and other mental health services on college campuses.