High levels of stress and social isolation are behind data that show roughly 33% of teens living in Boise are struggling with depression and suicidal ideation* – a number higher than the national average. A new effort called the Boise Youth Behavioral Health Initiative is taking steps to help with prevention around youth mental health in Boise.
Together, the City of Boise, St. Luke’s Health System, and Communities for Youth kicked off the first meeting for the Boise Youth Behavioral Health Initiative this week, bringing together 50 community leaders, champions and influencers from across Ada County. The session introduced attendees to the work being done throughout the Treasure Valley around youth mental health, and why prevention is critical to add to the toolbox of mental health care supports.
“In Boise, we are focused on creating a city for everyone, which means building the best possible community for our kids so they can focus on school, their friends and family, and growing up in this incredible place,” said Mayor Lauren McLean. “I’m so inspired by the work we are starting and look forward to working with community members – from parents, grandparents, schools and kids themselves to make a meaningful impact on the mental health of our youngest residents.”
This week’s kick-off featured an address by Mayor McLean and introduced attendees to the Icelandic Prevention Model, a collaborative model focused on upstream prevention strategies that can change conditions that lead to some of the mental health struggles and substance use among youth. The Icelandic Prevention Model is an evidence-based approach used in more than 43 countries. The Boise School District has integrated many similar prevention strategies into its ongoing efforts around student wellbeing.
“We know that people in our communities want to help our youth – they see the statistics around mental health, and yet it can feel overwhelming to know what to do or where to start,” said Dr. Megan Smith, founding director for Communities for Youth and an Associate Professor for the Boise State University School of Public and Population Health. “The promising news is that there are many programs and supports in our communities already available, and by working together to gather community support, collecting information through various modes, and looking upstream, we can develop a plan with the community, take action and repeat the steps as needed.”
Attendees of the Boise Youth Behavioral Health Initiative kick-off are now encouraged to help champion the work in the community, create connections and provide guidance on how to make this model most successful in Boise.
Additional implementation work will be done throughout the city.
“Community members in Boise are invited to participate in upcoming meetings this fall. This opportunity is open to anyone in our communities interested in taking action to help our youth thrive. Participants do not need to specifically work with kids, and no specific knowledge or experience with mental health is necessary. The more representation and voices we have in our communities addressing mental health, the more we can make an impact for our youth,” said Angie Gribble, St. Luke’s senior director of community health.
To learn more about getting involved, visit Boise Youth Behavioral Health Initiative.
*Data collected in November 2022 Student Well Being Survey conducted by Communities for Youth with Boise middle and high school students
Christine Myron is the Treasure Valley public relations manager for St. Luke’s Health System.