Strengthening Youth Mental Health in NJ


Among governors across the nation, NJ Governor Phil Murphy took his seat as Chairman of the National Association of Governors last week and announced several initiatives along with the first lady aimed at strengthening youth mental health and promoting the health, wellness, and equity among birthing parents in NJ.

Governor Murphy succeeds Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, with whom New Jersey collaborated on several issues, including supporting infrastructure investments, promoting STEM education, and working to prevent mass shootings and regulate firearms.

Governor Murphy’s Strengthening Youth Mental Health Initiative was highlighted on Friday as an initiative that comes amid an escalating youth mental health crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The youth mental health crisis knows no bounds – neither geographic nor political – and we must similarly transcend state borders and political divisions to protect our children,” said Governor Murphy.

In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, 37% of high school students reported poor mental health during the pandemic, and 44% reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

Additionally, a study conducted by the Born This Way Foundation found that while 90% of youth rate their mental health as a priority, only 40% rated their mental health quality as “high.”

Additionally, nearly 50% of school-aged youth reported that they do not know where or how to access care, and nearly 50% reported cost as a key barrier to accessing care.

Governor Murphy’s new initiative centers on four core pillars which include prevention and resilience building, increasing awareness and reducing stigma, access and affordability of quality treatment, and caregiver and educator training.

According to Governor Murphy, this initiative willfurther support success in and outside the classroom by acknowledging the relationship between mental health and academic growth, [and] promoting the academic recovery of youths impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The evidence is clear when it comes to the alarming state of youth mental health in this country,” said Amy L. Kennedy, former educator, mental health advocate, and leader of The Kennedy Forum. “The question is, what are we going to do to address this public health emergency? By helping to advance thoughtful policies and programming at the state level, Governor Murphy and the National Governors Association are poised to make a tremendous difference in the lives of countless young people, families, and communities. I’m honored to be part of this timely initiative.”

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