A new endeavor, the Boise Youth Behavioral Health Initiative, launched August 31 with a meeting of 50 community leaders from throughout the Treasure Valley sharing the work being done around youth mental health.
Data collected in November 2022 by the Communities for Youth team shows 33 percent of Boise teens are struggling with depression and suicidal ideation — a number higher than the national average. Communities for Youth, St. Luke’s Health System and the City of Boise are championing the Boise Youth Behavioral Health initiative to share information on preventative approaches to support mental health programming within the community.
School of Public and Population Health Associate Professor Megan Smith is the founding director of Communities for Youth. The group works to connect parents, schools and kids with the capacity to recognize and address youth mental health needs.
Smith said her team sees the community’s desire to help youth, but knows that it can feel overwhelming to know what to do or where to start when it comes to mental health.
“The promising news is that there are many programs and supports in our communities already available, and by working together to gather community support, collecting information through various modes, and looking upstream, we can develop a plan with the community, take action and repeat the steps as needed,” she said.
The session also introduced attendees to the Icelandic Prevention Model, which focuses on upstream prevention strategies, and how it can change the conditions which lead to mental health struggles and substance use among youth.
“I’m so inspired by the work we are starting and look forward to working with community members – from parents, grandparents, schools and kids themselves to make a meaningful impact on the mental health of our youngest residents,” Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said at the kick off meeting.
Smith was also featured in a KTVB news segment about the Youth Behavioral Health Initiative.
Those involved in the initiative now hope to see this information shared widely throughout Boise and beyond. Community members are encouraged to attend upcoming meetings this fall and can visit the Communities for Youth website to learn more about these opportunities.