The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many burdens, including an unsettling spike in the number of adolescents needing help managing mental health challenges. While adolescent mental health has been a public health concern for a number of years, the added stresses of social isolation and familial disruption have increased the number of teens and young adults needing, and looking for, help.
But as much as everyone acknowledges the need for adolescent mental health services, we also know that there’s a critical shortage of support right now and a critical shortage of funding to augment services in the near-term. “Even before the pandemic 73 percent of adolescents in Fairfax County, VA said that there were experiencing high to moderate levels of stress because of the pressures of every day life,” explained Rachna Krishnan Executive Director of The Women’s Center. “Now, a year into the pandemic these stressors have grown as teens have been cut off from their friends, peers, teachers, and coaches, as schools remain closed. In fact, the CDC has reported a sharp increase – as much as 31 percent – in adolescent emergency department visits for mental health issues since the start of the pandemic. ”
To this end, The Women’s Center has been looking for ways to expand its nearly 50 year commitment to support vulnerable communities in the Greater Washington, D.C. area through its operations. “While we’re called The Women’s Center at least 10 percent of clients are adolescents,” explained Krishnan. “Right now we have a three month wait for adolescent mental health services just from our existing clients and we know there are many more teenagers out there who could benefit from the support of group and individual therapy. So, we have started the process of identifying grants and donations that will fund these programs and empower us to support the community more fully.”
The Women’s Center’s quest for funding has started well with a generous gift from Fran Craig, founder of Unanet, a leading project management software company. “I’ve always been a passionate supporter of issues that affect women,” explained Craig. “Whether it is in supporting women in tech, supporting women returning to the workforce, or building a family-friendly, flexible work culture it’s been part of my life-long mission. I’m delighted to be able to support The Women’s Center in this important work.”
What both Craig and Krishnan hope happens next is that other companies and organizations will come alongside to help The Women’s Center in building a comprehensive adolescent mental health program. “Our vision is to be able to hire a dedicated therapist and program coordinator. The role of the therapist is easy to understand, but to have a program coordinator who can work with parents and pediatricians in the community to ensure that teenagers at risk receive early intervention and the holistic support they need is critical to really addressing adolescent mental health challenges,” noted Krishnan.
With Craig’s support kicking-off a campaign for additional industry funding and grant applications, The Women’s Center is on the cusp of being able to deliver on its vision and extend its mission. “Fran’s commitment to our work is so valued and we hope that other sponsors – both corporate and individual – will join us in this important work,” concluded Krishnan.