Today young people are increasingly vulnerable to depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness. According to Mental Health America’s recent report, The State of Mental Health in America 2017, youth depression rates have risen from 8.5% in 2011 to 11.1% in 2014. In Arizona, 13% of youth reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode in the past year and 10% had severe depression; of these, nearly 70% of youth with major depression did not receive any mental health treatment. Currently, Arizona ranks 50th among 50 states and the District of Columbia for youth (12 to 17) with higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care.
Mental illness stigma disproportionately affects help seeking among youth, especially among ethnic minorities. If untreated, mental health disorders can lead to skipping school, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, dropping out or being expelled from school, violence, and suicide or a psychotic episode. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24.
The total economic costs of behavioral health disorders among US youth are estimated at nearly $250 billion annually, that would be $781 million in just Pima County. Youth behavioral health disorders burden education, child welfare, foster care, primary medical care and juvenile justice systems. But when mental health is diagnosed and treated, society benefits. The return on investment (ROI) of expanded diagnosis and treatment of depression has a ROI of $7 for every $1 invested on treatment, and $5.60 for every $1 spent on prevention.