Mental Health CrisisHealth Promotion

Mental Health Crisis: We Must Address Root Causes

While mental health providers, policymakers and parents scramble to handle the escalating mental health crisis in children and youth, we must address the root causes through long-overdue systems-level changes in order to make an impact.

That’s the message Paul H. Dworkin, MD, delivered in a recently published Op-Ed in the Hartford Courant.

“The crisis unquestionably demands immediate strengthening of our capacity to treat children and youth with urgent behavioral health needs, including expanding inpatient bed capacity when hospitalization is indicated,” wrote Dr. Dworkin. “However, strengthening treatment access and capacity, while of enormous and critical importance, is insufficient alone to favorably alter the longer-term trajectory of this crisis. We must also acknowledge the need for a comprehensive response that encompasses strategies that address the problem’s root causes — the adverse social, environmental, economic and behavioral factors that so powerfully impact families and determine children’s outcomes.”

In his opinion article, Dr. Dworkin noted that many promising resources and opportunities currently exist to “favorably bend the curve of the behavioral health crisis for current and future generations of children by strengthening the capacity of families to promote their children’s social and emotional competence.” Such resources include the North Hartford Ascend Pipeline, which was recently funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods Program to improve the academic and developmental outcomes of children living in the North Hartford Promise Zone, and broadening support for Help Me Grow Connecticut, which connects families to community-based supports to address concerns related to their children’s development and behavior.

Dr. Dworkin concluded that a comprehensive, integrated approach to building an equitable, accessible and effective early childhood system is necessary to mitigate the long-term impact of the escalating mental health crisis. He notes that such a system must focus on strengthening the capacity of families to support and nurture their children’s social and emotional well-being.

To read Dr. Dworkin’s entire article, click here.

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