The issue of young people’s declining mental health is not going away, and legislators, businesses, and even neighborhood schools are searching for ways to support children and teenagers who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and worry.
Since Gen Z is predicted to make up 30% of the workforce by 2030, DiLeonardo said that global events have contributed to mental health issues among that generation. He urged medical professionals and local leaders to plan on incorporating mental health services that are sensitive to those needs.
There are certain events that profoundly impact each generation’s worldview. DiLeonardo stated, “Gen X has different characteristics from baby boomers, millennials, and Gen Z. “However, consider the types of general issues they have faced: unstable finances, continuous hostilities, and constant internet access.”
She cited the 2008 recession, ongoing military conflicts, the 9/11 attacks, active shooter exercises in schools, and the impact of social media and technology as causes of Gen Z’s poor mental health.
During the 2024 legislative session, when Maryland politicians have the chance to change and expand behavioral health initiatives throughout the state, mental health among Gen Z and younger people might be explored.
A Department of Legislative Services research that examines potential legislative themes states that teenagers who use social media extensively run a higher risk of experiencing negative outcomes related to their mental health.
According to the report, since the [COVID] pandemic, young people’s mental health needs have “remained elevated or underserved.”
Eighth and tenth graders combined spent more than 3.5 hours a day on social media in 2021. According to research, teenagers who spend more than three hours a day online are twice as likely to experience negative mental health consequences, such as anxiety and depressive symptoms, the report states.
Prior attempts have been made to address the mental health issue facing young people in Maryland.
Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) advocated for and lawmakers enacted a comprehensive behavioral health legislation package in the 2023 legislative session to investigate and assess the most effective ways to address mental health problems throughout the state. It establishes a commission to examine the mental health requirements of particular populations, such youth.
Furthermore, the John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents in Rockville is set to expand, according to a recent announcement from the Maryland Department of Health.
Remodeled Cottage 2 at the institute accommodates 12 more beds to support young Marylanders with emotional, behavioral, and learning challenges, according to a news statement on Tuesday. “Youth who are court-ordered to the care of the Maryland Department of Health for competency attainment services” are the target population for the residential treatment institution.
In the meantime, grant proposals for supporting community- and school-based mental health initiatives are being reviewed by the Maryland Consortium on Coordinated Community Supports. The Consortium will allocate $120 million amongst its projects.
The collaboration convened in late November to assess 258 project ideas across 24 school districts and amounting to $380 million. The group is responsible for enhancing behavioral services in schools.
Funding requests for the projects varied from $37,000 to $17.9 million, although consortium staff will speak with applicants to see if they can make their demands smaller.
Peer support, mental health applications, creative expression therapy, medication management, dating violence prevention, and training for school staff are among the projects that are proposed.
The staff will provide recommendations regarding which proposals to fund and the potential amount of funding each project. The consortium will get together in January to discuss suggestions made by the personnel. Grant announcements are anticipated in January.