Improving Resilience & Mental Health

Why youth mental health needs our attention

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people, with up to 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the United States having a mental, emotional, developmental or behavioral disorder. From 2009 to 2019, the share of high school students who reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by 40 percent to more than 1 in 3 students. On average, only 1 in 4 children in need of mental health support received the help they needed and, of those, approximately 70-80 percent receive treatment in a school or a community-based setting.

The pandemic added to these pre-existing challenges and has had devastating impacts that we are still struggling to quantify. In the Fall of 2021, a coalition of the nation’s leading experts in pediatric health declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.

What Lurie Children's is doing to improve youth mental health

Lurie Children's takes a public health approach to mental health care. We are dedicated to helping children and young people build resilience and promoting access to high-quality mental health services for them in the places where they live and learn. Lurie Children’s also recognizes that child and adolescent mental health is a community issue that impacts us all and understands that there is not just one solution that will help all youth. We work with multiple groups throughout the state to address all the ways in which children and adolescents need support, and to learn from them and each other so that we do so effectively.

Since 2004, the Center for Childhood Resilience (CCR) at Lurie Children's has worked to build the resiliency of children and youth with a focus on under-resourced and under-represented populations throughout Chicago and Illinois. Through innovative, sustainable and evidence-based strategies, CCR engages youth-serving organizations to address the impact of trauma and promote mental wellness in communities where children and adolescents live, learn and grow.

CCR collaborates with educators, community agencies, civic and government leaders, parent organizations, faith-based organizations and philanthropic groups who work with and advocate for children and adolescents, including the Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition (ICTC) and Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership (ICMHP). Within Lurie Children's, CCR partners with Strengthening Chicago's Youth (SCY) to advance trauma-informed best practices.

To address the shortage of pediatric mental healthcare providers, the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie Children’s is training community-based pediatricians to evaluate, treat and monitor common mild-to-moderate psychiatric disorders through our Mood, Anxiety, ADHD Collaborative Care (MAACC) Program. Group interventions are also provided to increase access to evidence-based services among youth who suffer from more common mental health conditions. These models reduce wait-times for mental health services, while increasing communication between providers.

Our impact on youth mental health

  • CCR and Chicago Public Schools are expanding a comprehensive and collaborative system to better identify and respond to Pre-K-12 students who need mental health support. Already piloted in more than 200 CPS schools, the District will begin expanding these teams to all 515 of its network schools next August with the goal of reaching all schools by School Year 2023-24.
  • Between 2017 and 2020, CCR trained 6,352 diverse professionals and community members to deliver trauma-informed interventions.
  • CCR leads the statewide Trauma Responsive Schools-Designation pilot to support educators in 30 Illinois schools to further their trauma-responsive and culturally attuned practices.
  • The MAACC program trained 111 community-based pediatricians, who overwhelmingly noted significant improvement in their ability to access treatment and care for patients with mental health concerns.
  • Between 2018 and 2020, 460 patients were referred to MAACC for evaluation and treatment planning with specialists. Patients were evaluated within two weeks and individualized care plans developed within a month – a substantial improvement over typical care and wait-times.
  • ICMHP’s expansion of Screening Assessment and Support Services Program has reduced psychiatric hospitalizations for youth in crisis by providing effective and timely linkages with community-based services. 
  • ICTC instituted a statewide public media campaign “Look through Their Eyes” to help families become more aware that childhood trauma exists.