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Teens came to us for mental health help. We helped put a plan into action.

When teens say they need help, we listen. 

Recently, youth working with our Youth Cannabis and Commercial Tobacco Prevention Program did just that. They told us teens are in crisis and need mental health help.

And fast. 

It’s one of several new projects funded by Pierce County’s new behavioral health tax. 

Teens helping teens in crisis. 

The data backs them up. In 2018, 27% of Pierce County 10th graders said they had thought about suicide and 66% reported they felt anxious or nervous in the past two weeks. The pandemic made things worse. Now, 58% of 10th graders report feeling sad or depressed on most days. 

We quickly developed a plan to pilot a teen Mental Health First Aid training program. We are in the planning stage of expanding this project after we received grant funding.

Pierce County 10th to 12th graders who get certified will learn to: 

  • See the signs of a mental health crisis or substance use challenges in a friend.
  • Involve a trusted adult when needed. 

Certified, trained adults will help youth talk to and keep an eye on their friends and peers. 

We’ll start by focusing on the county’s more than 7,000 10th graders. We know young people are resilient, brave and kind. We also know early intervention from a friend or peer can help someone who is struggling.  

New opportunities to improve behavioral health.  

Last July, Pierce County’s 0.1% behavioral health tax went into effect. Money from the tax will pay for new ways to add to our longtime behavioral health work. Pierce County also awarded us grant funding that will help us: 

  • Develop and put in place screening tools providers can use to find early mental health symptoms. 
  • Increase preventative mental health screenings at doctor visits and other places in the community. 
  • Get word out about already existing resources, like Kids Mental Health Pierce County webinars.
  • Identify gaps in care for children and youth. 
  • Help communities get more access to mental health resources. 
  • Develop mental health tool kits.

All these programs will help awareness of mental health. We hope they also help stomp out mental-health stigmas. 

The latest frontier. 

Teen Mental Health First Aid is a new approach in Pierce County. We hope it will grow quickly.

Partnerships with the Pierce County Prevention Collaborative and the Oasis Youth Center could help. It involves many of our Communities of Focus, and we’ve partnered with MultiCare, Tacoma Public Schools and the University of Washington to share the project’s outcomes. The sponsoring agency is the Boys and Girls Club of Puget Sound. 

In time, we hope to grow the program to other grades. We know how complex teen behavioral health can be. Teens have been through a host of traumas, including the pandemic and ongoing racial inequity.

No one understands teens better than themselves. When they came to us, we helped put a plan in action. They will help lead it.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll tell you more about the other projects funded by the behavioral health tax. Subscribe to the Your Reliable Source blog for those updates and our latest public-health news.

Students joining hands together in cooperation.