Empowering Our Youth to Prioritize Mental Health Works | The Kennedy Forum

Empowering Our Youth to Prioritize Mental Health Works
June 28, 2018

By Patrick J. Kennedy, former U.S. Rep. and founder of The Kennedy Forum

Recently a landmark study by the RAND Corporation confirmed that Active Minds – a national leader for young adult mental health advocacy and suicide prevention – has a significant, positive impact on student health and well-being by creating a supportive climate for mental health on college campuses. Kudos to founder and director, Alison Malmon, and her amazing team for their hard work and dedication to this cause.

The study results, which were published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (July 2018) showed:

  • As students become more involved with Active Minds, they are more likely to reach out to a classmate or friend who is struggling with a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.
  • Among the general student body, knowledge and positive attitudes about mental health increases as a result of an Active Minds presence, creating a more supportive campus climate and increasing the potential that students in distress will seek mental health services.
  • Active Minds’ education programs meaningfully influence not only students’ knowledge and attitudes toward mental health issues, but also their behaviors.
  • The impact is swift — knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors examined in the study positively changed within a single academic year.

This is great news, not just for the students and families who have been impacted by Active Minds, but also for the mental health community at large, and the many advocates who work tirelessly to “be the change.”

I’m lucky to call one of them my wife. Amy Kennedy was particularly excited by the Active Minds study results, because, she too cares deeply about youth mental health. Amy was a public school teacher in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for more than 15 years. And as education director of The Kennedy Forum, she strives to promote the importance of social and emotional learning in the development of mental wellness for children and adolescents. She also serves on the board of Mental Health America, a leading national advocacy organization, and sits on the advisory board of the Jed Foundation’s Set to Go program, which helps high school students emotionally prepare for the transition to college.

Active Minds has shown the world that hard work pays off when it comes to youth mental health initiatives. I hope it inspires you as much as it has us.

Now more than ever, we must be bold and consistent in our efforts to empower young people. The seeds we plant at critical stages of development and maturity will grow, if nurtured. Amy and I know it won’t be long before our five children go out into the world. We are thankful for the many youth programs – including Active Minds – that are making a difference, and optimistic that one day in the not so distant future, getting a ‘check up from the neck up’ will just be the norm. Of course, there’s still much work to be done, but let’s stop to acknowledge the progress and be thankful for those who go above and beyond for the next generation.