By Janell Gore | South Kern Sol

Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled his “Master Plan for Kids Mental Health” on Thursday. The plan is in response to increased depression and suicide rates in California children. 

According to the governor’s office, in a press release in the 2020-21 school year one-third of 7th and 9th graders and one-half of the 11th graders experienced chronic sadness. The release also stated that an estimated one out of 10 kids aged 12 to 17 experienced at least one major depressive episode last year. From 2019 to 2020 suicide rates for ages 10-18 increased by 20%.

The increase in depression is nationwide and COVID-19 added several factors to why teens are struggling with mental health at higher rates. According to an analysis earlier this year from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the following are some of the severe challenges youth faced during the pandemic. 

  • More than half (55%) reported they experienced emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting, or putting down the student.
  • 11% experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including hitting, beating, kicking, or physically hurting the student.
  • More than a quarter (29%) reported a parent or other adult in their home lost a job.

“Mental and behavioral health is one of the greatest challenges of our time. As other states take away resources to support kids’ mental health, California is doubling down with the most significant overhaul of our mental health system in state history,” said Newsom. 

This plan will invest $4.7 billion into mental health services and will add 40,000 mental health workers. 

Other investments include:

  • $4.1 billion on a community school strategy to connect kids and families to essential services including health screenings, meals, and more.
  • $5 billion on a Medi-Cal initiative, CalAIM, to better integrate health and behavioral health services for low-income kids.
  • $1.4 billion to build a more diverse healthcare workforce that expands our capacity to meet the health needs of Californians, including children and families. 

“We’re investing billions of dollars to ensure every California child has better access to comprehensive mental health and substance use services. The Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health is premised on a very simple belief: every single kid deserves to have their mental health supported. That’s the California Way – putting our kids first.”

A proactive and responsive system of care according to the plan includes:

  • Virtual Platforms to extend mental health assessments and intervention.
  • Intervening early to help with children who are at high risk for mental health and substance use.
  • Increasing the number of school counselors for convenient and free mental health services for children. 
  • Expanding the clinic and treatment capabilities for young people.
  • Suicide prevention and crisis response by creating a 988 suicide crisis line and providing grants for school and community-based responses to youth suicide or attempts. 
  • Implement resources for young people with severe and significant symptoms so they can have safe high-quality settings to heal.

Healthy Minds for California Kids is a section of the plan dedicated to making sure mental health is affordable, easy to access, de-stigmatized, and ensuring parents have resources to help their children. 

“As a parent, there’s nothing worse than seeing your child in pain and feeling powerless to help,” said First Partner, Jennifer Siebel. “In California, we take the mental health and wellbeing of our children seriously, and we’re tackling this problem head-on with significant investments in the infrastructure of the state’s mental health system.”

Part of the investment is focused on adding 40,000 professionals into the mental health field. This will be done by offering tuition assistance and loan forgiveness for those working in behavioral health. This will also help those looking to go into the mental health field by helping 2,500 high school students interested in mental health careers. 

10,000 professionals will be hired to increase the number of school counselors and $20,000 in scholarships will be provided for mental health workers that spend two years working in the schools. 

For those currently looking for help and resources near you, the Children’s Mental Health Resources Hub provides resources including several support hotlines, CalHOPE, and informational guides on suicide and depression warning signs. 

Some signs the hub lists for teens may show if they are suicidal include: 

  • Personality change 
  • Withdrawal 
  • Reckless behavior 
  • Substance abuse 
  • Giving away belongings 
  • Neglect of personal appearance 
  • Physical pain 
  • Sudden mood changes 

The website states that if any of the following signs are present call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Seeking methods for self-harm, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live