The Mental Health Youth Action Board (YAB) at Children's Colorado is collecting youth mental health stories and artwork for the creation of a book that can offer an encouraging and normalizing experience to all who read it.
The teen board wants to hear from other youth, ages 12 to 24, who are willing to share their experience with a mental health problem, emotional challenge or personal struggle. They're looking for stories or artwork that involve aspects of survival, strength and hope. What obstacles have you faced? What strengths and supports have helped (like treatment, friends or family)? What have you learned from your mental health journey? Submissions are due February 16 at 5 p.m. Additional details are available on the Youth Advisory Board page.
"Part of the reason I am so passionate now about mental health issues is ...because I know how much it can and does get better. The work that Children's Hospital Colorado and the Youth Action Board do every year is so important for youth everywhere to hear stories like mine and know that they can get help," shared Oliva Almon, 17, a YAB member and Denver Youth Health Assessment Leadership Team participant. Almon experienced severe depression, as well as anxiety and PTSD after dealing with sexual assault.
De-stigmatizing mental health issues
The Pediatric Mental Health Institute at Children's Colorado started the Youth Action Board in 2013 as part of an effort to engage the community and stakeholders in improving mental health services. The current YAB consists of 13 youth, ages 15 to 17, from the Denver Metro area who want to raise awareness about and de-stigmatize mental health issues.
Each year this group of articulate, engaged youth are offered Youth Mental Health First Aid training, where they learn how to help peers in crisis or who may be experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge. In addition, they plan and implement a large social action project, like this year's collection of mental health stories and artwork. Past projects include:
Since its inception, the YAB has had 50 total members representing 8 schools, in eight school districts. The group is led by Tony Edelblute, LPC, MT-BC, a music therapist in the hospital's Ponzio Creative Arts Therapy Program and Heather Kennedy, MPH, a youth leadership expert.
The statistics involved
- One out of five children will suffer from a mental illness during their childhood
- Half of all mental illnesses develop by age 15; three-quarters by age 24
- The average delay between the onset of mental health problems and receiving treatments is 8 to 10 years
- Almost 80% of youth with mental illness do not receive treatment
- In Colorado, suicide is the FIRST leading cause of death for ages 10-14 and second leading cause for ages 15-44.
- The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry classifies Colorado as having a severe workforce shortage. There are only 15 child and adolescent psychiatrists per 100,000 children in Colorado; the recommended ratio is 47 per 100,000. No county in Colorado meets this standard.
- 50 out of 60 counties in Colorado do not have a child and adolescent psychiatrist.