Caring for Our Kids: The Mental Health Toll on Children

Mar 11, 2022

For children facing mental health challenges and the families seeking support, the obstacles are many. Thankfully, even in the darkest of moments, there are services, hope and actions being elevated by dedicated service providers and advocates in our community.

It was the Community Foundation’s honor to host a panel discussion featuring three local, passionate and inspirational nonprofit leaders who are seeking to positively impact the lives of youth by ensuring supports are in place to provide the very best care for our community’s kids:

Dr. Jennifer Ulie-Wells, Executive Director, Please Pass the Love

Tony Raymer, Director of Brain Health, Easterseals Iowa 

Jodie Warth, Vice President of the Child Guidance Center, Orchard Place

To learn more from these incredible panelists, watch the full DonorConnect recording below. 

What We Learned from the Panel

  • The mental health care system for children was not on a strong footing before the pandemic began. The pandemic was a storm that completely blew it off its footing and further exposed the tremendous need for mental health care for our kids. 
  • Iowa is in crisis with suicide as the second leading cause of death for Iowa youth.
  • 24% of 11th graders in Iowa contemplated suicide in 2021 according to a youth survey.
  • The number of suicides doubled in January 2021 compared to January 2020. 
  • Orchard Place has implemented an Intake Assessment Specialist model to provide a triage approach to assessing needs in times of mental health crisis and connecting young people with appropriate care.
  • Easterseals Iowa has opened a crisis stabilization center on the Camp Sunnyside Campus that is available 24/7 to all ages. 
  • Please Pass the Love is implementing a new grassroots sticker campaign to make information on how to connect with help easily accessible throughout the state. 
  • The community has been engaged in efforts to improve mental health outcomes for kids for years. In 2014 a report was released on challenges and opportunities for mental health delivery in Central Iowa. This was followed by a report in 2017 focused on children’s mental health crisis needs and gaps. This, and countless hours of work and advocacy by community members and organizations, led to the Polk County Children’s Mental Health System.

How You Can Help

  • Contact your elected officials. Share the critical need for increased support of systemic and evidence-based practices through policy and reliable funding streams supporting the children’s mental health system. 
  • Support organizations like Please Pass the Love, Easterseals Iowa, Orchard Place and other efforts found on GIVEdsm who are providing critical care to our children in need.
  • Advocate for mental health screenings to be included as part of routine youth screenings through schools and primary care providers. 
  • Listen to our kids and understand the stresses and triggers in their lives.

If You or Someone You Know is Facing a Mental Health Crisis

  • Call the Easterseals crisis line at (515) 288-0818 to connect with experts who can quickly get you appropriate resources.
  • Text (855) 895-8398 to connect with Your Life Iowa, a free resource providing confidential support to help you get your life back on track.
  • If you or a loved one is unable to keep themselves safe, do not wait. Go directly to the nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1.

As was shared by our panelists, we have one chance to support our community’s kids through childhood and it will take the entire community to engage in systemic change. Whether connecting you with opportunities to support this work, or other causes you care about, our team is here to help. Thank you for your commitment to making our community better together.