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Meeting the Need

Children and youth are experiencing an ever-growing multitude of new and severe stressors that have resulted in a growing number of severely depressed and suicidal youths. One in five adolescents suffers from depression, and 50% of those will develop depression by the age of 14. The annual estimated cost is approximately $3 billion a year in the United States. 

Tragically, suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers in the nation. In San Diego County, the suicide rate of youth ages 12 to 17 in 2016 was almost double the national rate. Accordingly, the emergency department at Rady Children’s has seen an increase of youth in emotional distress. Just 10 years ago, our behavioral health emergency department volumes were 163 for the entire year; we now see double that volume each month. 

With COVID-19…  

Recent reports have indicated that the pandemic has accelerated the mental health crisis, showing alarming trends such as an increase of 24 percent in children in the emergency department for mental health, and one in four young girls are depressed at least four days per week. It is anticipated that behavioral health concerns will continue to increase among children and youth. Through the Transforming Mental Health Initiative, we aim to: 

  • Provide early detection, prevention, treatment, education, innovation and research to improve the life experience of children and youth, and strengthen families with the goal of making a major impact on positively disrupting the growth in anxiety, depression, suicide and other behavioral and mental health needs of children and youth. 
  • “Teenagers and college students have amplified innate, developmental motivations that make them hard to isolate at home. The hormonal changes that come with puberty conspire with adolescent social dynamics to make them highly attuned to social status and peer group.”
    – Psychology Today writer Christine L. Carter 

How Does Transforming Mental Health Meet This Need?   

Rady Children’s has a legacy for decades of mental and behavioral health programming. Then, in 2015, under the guidance of its Board, Rady Children’s more formally set an aspiration for transforming mental health with a focus on the whole child. We are deploying accessible care, new models of detection and prevention, and initiating new models of treatment and discoveries of clinical and non-clinical research. Our first area of prioritized focus has been the integration of mental and behavioral health services in pediatric primary care settings.  

Focusing on the needs of the whole child, TMH is implementing a multipronged approach to identify and deliver interventions to address the behavioral health needs of children and youth, improving the emotional well-being of children and youth through:    

  • Conducting early identification, including standardized mental health screening
  • Increasing access to care 
  • Implementing prevention programs
  • Pursuing new care delivery models and providing evidence-based treatment
  • Embarking on ground-breaking research to improve treatment options
  • Providing education to patient families and providers