Today, the New York Daily News published an op-ed by Governor Kathy Hochul on New York’s multifaceted approach to youth mental health crisis. The text of the op-ed is available below and can be viewed online. over here.
On June 15, I was proud to gather over 1,000 people for the first time in New York. Youth Mental Health ConferenceI joined a group of advocates who care deeply about addressing the unprecedented mental health challenges facing so many children and adolescents. The presence of so many at the conference — national mental health experts, youth advocates and providers, parents and caregivers, educators and others — made a statement about the scale of this crisis, the pain it’s causing, and our collective understanding of the children. Those who want our help.
It also gave me hope that we are a caring government that can work together to be part of the solution.
Children and teenagers are facing unprecedented challenges in this country. Today, mental health challenges are so profound that our youth face incredible levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide. According to the CDC, 42%—about half of all high school students—feel consistently sad or hopeless. And 22%, especially high school girls, thought that the life alternative would be better.
Among LGBTQ youth, increasingly targeted by politically motivated right-wing extremists, the numbers are even more alarming. Nearly 70% of LGBTQ children feel constantly sad or hopeless. 37% of them had planned suicide.
Between 2018 and 2021, the suicide rate among black youth is at an alarming rate, rising 37 percent between 2018 and 2021. These numbers don’t measure the full impact of the epidemic, which we don’t yet fully understand, on the mental health of children and teens. has influenced
These numbers are chilling, and as New York State’s first mother — and someone who’s seen children in pain — they’re personal. Above all, statistics are a sobering reminder that what we’ve been doing is simply not enough.
We’ve been investing in mental health care for too long, and our neglect of this crisis, especially in schools, has led us to a tipping point that’s only been exacerbated by COVID, a national pandemic and reliance on social media for communication.
Talking to the children and hearing their heartbreaking stories of isolation, fear and loss, they made it clear over and over: They needed more help. A school of 700 students needs not one counselor, but multiple mental health professionals in schools. They need to learn in an environment free from the fear of gun violence, the leading cause of death for children and youth. They need training to discuss the power of social media and its impact on mental health in intelligent and thoughtful ways.
Above all, we must all rise up and take bold, common-sense steps to tackle this problem.
Starting this year, my administration took the first step toward ending years of underinvestment in mental health care and developing meaningful solutions to this crisis. With a long-term, $1 billion investment, we’re reforming the entire system to provide services for all levels of need, prevent people from falling into crisis, and ensure everyone has access to a continuum of care. In addition, we have made a historic investment of $34.5 billion in education and $347 million in gun violence prevention funding, allowing us to take comprehensive and comprehensive approaches to help our youth.
Additionally, we’ll outline what policies New York can implement while urging other states and the federal government to follow our lead. These should include measures to prevent social media exposure to our children and reduce its impact on their mental health, include professionals in communities most affected by this crisis (e.g., LGBTQ, Black, and Latino communities), and invest in local mental health research programs that can help inform future policy decisions. They lead.
Finally, we will continue to work directly with the youth affected by this crisis. After hosting listening tours with children and teens across the state and bringing together many committed New Yorkers at the Youth Mental Health Summit, the importance of helping youth voices shape the conversation couldn’t be clearer, and it will be important for them to attend. It is at the forefront when we design new policies.
These important steps are just the beginning. They are sworn to take tough questions, give unconventional answers, and challenge the status quo in mental health. Simply put, you promise to do better.
Together, I believe that the thousands who gathered at the conference and cast their votes – and the millions to whom this issue is personal – can achieve better results starting today.