Mental Health Month: Ways we are responding to the needs of young people 

Crisis resources for young people and their families:   

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal ideation you can call Crisis Connections or one of these lines for support:

  • Children’s Crisis Outreach Services (CCORS), 206-461-3222   
  • Call a crisis line such as King County’s Crisis Line 206-461-3222 or visit, available 24/7, 365, to help link you to available and appropriate local resources; the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 988 or 800-273-8255; Trevor Project for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386; or text “HOME” to 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line. 

This was originally posted on the Best Starts for Kids blog.

Before the pandemic and now, young people are speaking up about the increased need for mental health supports. 

According to a 2023 CDC report, young people reported concerning trends in mental health challenges. The reports showed that more than 40 percent of students felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021. And it showed that more than 20 percent of students seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021. The CDC also reports that U.S. teen girls are experiencing increased sadness and 57 percent of teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021.  

May is Mental Health Month and we are digging into the complex needs of the region’s youth and identifying programs and supports to help meet those needs.  

Mental health enhancements at school-based health centers and the opening of a new clinic 

In March, Best Starts announced both the enhancement of mental health supports in school based health centers and the opening of a new school based health center in Burien.  School-based health centers offer a range of health care supports for students who might otherwise struggle to access this care. Started in 1989 as a pilot project in Rainier Beach High School, there are now 36 of these clinics across the county. 

King County also announced a partnership with Ballmer Group that will fund mental health enhancements across school-based health centers, with $1.2 million from Best Starts and $1.2 million from Ballmer Group.  

Additionally county leaders, community and school partners, and students celebrated the opening of the school-based health center at Highline High School in Burien at the end of March.  

“Having access to a full-service clinic can make a huge difference,” said Highline High School senior Maria Mena, with support from a translator at the opening celebration. “On a personal note, it would have been a big help to me the last two years when I was trying to make the basketball team.”    

Students across King County accessed medical and mental health care from these clinics, which amounted to 40,000 total visits in the 2021-2022 school year.  

We’re continuing to expand this valuable resource. In the fall, Best Starts is partnering with Sea Mar Health to open a clinic at Auburn Mountainview High School for full service; currently the clinic is operating on partial service for students at Mountainview.   

Two Best Starts funding opportunities launched to support peer-to-peer mental health connections 

In 2022, Best Starts launched two funding opportunities focused on youth leadership in creating mental health supports.  

The Youth Healing Project is a project that funds young people with mini grants to create mental health supports. Now 14 projects are underway, led by young people across the county, developing creative tools and supports to reach their peers. The Youth Healing Project was originally created by young people, Community Center for Education Results (CCER), citiesRISE, and Reconnect to Opportunity in 2021 to meet community organizations’ and young people’s need for peer-driven and innovative mental health supports. We continue to work with these partners as Best Starts has taken on funding the project.  

The Youth Led Communications Campaign was developed to support youth leadership in broader efforts to build connections for young people and mental health resources. Last year, Best Starts awarded funding to Creative Justice to support young people in a mental health communications campaign. Creative Justice is working with Converge Media and a group of young people to develop the communications plan.  

After being awarded, young people with Creative Justice shared their excitement.  

“I’m excited to be working on our podcasts and new projects and funding events and being in ‘Heal’ and possibly becoming a PMA [Peer Mentor Artist] in January so yea I’m very excited for the coming year yes maam,” shared a Youth Leadership Board member.   

MIDD Behavioral Health Fund invests in youth mental health 

Many of King County’s investments in youth mental health are funded by the King County MIDD that increase access to behavioral health services and support residents of all ages to connect to community and thrive in recovery.  

MIDD invests in community-based efforts to prevent or intervene early when behavioral health needs arise, helping keep common and treatable challenges from growing into crises.  

In 2022, over 1,000 young people were engaged in MIDD-funded services ranging from crisis outreach to wraparound supports. An additional 10,000 young people were screened in schools using the School-Based Screening Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) tool. The MIDD funds several youth-serving initiatives that aim to increase access to community-based behavioral health alternatives and reduce the use of detention and divert youth with behavioral health needs from legal involvement, as well as the Children’s Crisis Outreach Response System that provides immediate countywide crisis response to stabilize crises and coordinate services across systems.  

By providing support, resources, and interventions, these programs work toward King County’s goal of creating equitable access to opportunities for health, wellness, and recovery. 

National Association of Counties Fireside chat with U.S. Surgeon General and King County Executive 

In February King County Executive Dow Constantine spoke with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who put out an advisory this year about the impact of epidemic of loneliness and isolation across the country,  about policy solutions to address the growing need for youth mental health supports.  

“One of the challenges that we are facing is the increased mental health burden, the increased challenges, particularly for youth, after three years of this disruption. The impact on children and youth has been pronounced and is on top of challenges youth were already experiencing,” Constantine said. “As County leaders, we see the impact (on youth mental health) firsthand. You see it when it shows up in the criminal legal system; you see it when it shows up in public health, and in homelessness. You see it when it shows up in suicides.” 

You can watch the full chat here.