Children and teens across the country continue to struggle with mental illness. Experts agree that we are in the midst of a youth mental health crisis. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on kids’ and teens’ mental health, and they are reaching a breaking point. Being stuck at home during lockdowns, the uncertainty about the pandemic’s long-term impact, and the control social media has on their lives have all exacerbated the mental health challenges they’re facing.
This crisis must be addressed now, but the resources needed to support youth mental health are severely lacking. The resources that are available have been stretched too thin and can’t keep up with demand, meaning thousands of children and teens continue to suffer without help.
This holiday season, businesses can and should step up and help address this crisis as part of their corporate giving efforts. Corporate giving tied to youth mental health is a smart business strategy and can show solidarity for employees who may have a child struggling with mental health, support internal business goals related to recruitment and retention, and help fight one of the leading challenges facing the communities the company serves.
Showing a commitment to addressing youth mental health can inspire more confidence in employees who may be directly impacted by the crisis. In most organizations, a significant majority of employees are parents. They likely share their child’s achievements at school, in sports, or in other activities throughout the workday. However, behind the scenes, they may be struggling to cope with their child’s mental health.
Regardless of how much society has warmed to the idea of openly discussing mental health, it is important to acknowledge there is still a significant amount of stigma associated with the topic. Openly sharing the details about a philanthropic gift supporting youth mental health can begin to negate that stigma and show employees who may have a child struggling at home that their employer recognizes and cares about this cause.
Advancing Internal Goals
Supporting youth mental health can go beyond engaging employees directly impacted by the crisis. It can also reinforce that the business is an attractive place to work for both existing employees and prospective hires. Maintaining high levels of retention is cost-effective and creates a positive work environment for all employees. In fact, 54% of employees report being more engaged with work when they are proud of their company’s contribution to society.
Younger generations put an even greater value on a company’s philanthropic efforts, and actively supporting important causes can help make a business attractive to prospective hires. With more than 60% of millennials donating to charities and over 40% regularly volunteering, actively engaging in corporate giving efforts should be a key aspect of any recruitment strategy. Younger candidates place a heavy emphasis on whether an organization’s social practices align with their own and prefer to work for leaders who are open about their commitment to doing good in their communities. Additionally, by supporting mental health efforts geared toward youth today, businesses can help develop a more mindful workforce for the future. With the youth mental health crisis being so widespread, committing to this cause can only bolster recruitment efforts today and in the future.
While it’s no surprise that corporate philanthropy related to important causes can help enhance internal efforts, the real goal should be the positive impact that philanthropy can have within the communities where businesses operate.
Supporting organizations and facilities that treat adolescents with mental illness can only strengthen communities by helping those who are struggling get the support they need. This can include helping to fund new mental health facilities in the area or supporting local or national groups that provide resources to youth and their parents, especially for some of the most severe cases. At Choose Mental Health, for example, the donations we receive help fund scholarships at residential and wilderness treatment facilities that provide youth with a fighting chance against the most difficult mental health challenges.
Corporate support for youth mental health can have an incredible impact on children connected to a business and in the communities it serves. It can also contribute to shifting the mindset around youth mental health issues from “kids with problems” to “kids needing help.” Even though the youth mental health crisis in the United States is a widely accepted fact, there is still a long way to go to address these challenges.
It is time to stop dismissing kids when they are struggling and start treating their conditions with compassion and professionalism. By engaging in corporate philanthropy dedicated to youth mental health, businesses can help move this conversation among employees and, ultimately, within their broader communities.
Dan Pontius is the President and Cofounder of Choose Mental Health, a nonprofit leader in youth mental health advocacy that provides scholarships, resources, and education to families in need of mental health care. Through its network of providers, the nonprofit connects families with the resources, clinical care, and financial assistance to end the youth mental health crisis.