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Creating Positive Change to Help Arizona’s Youth Become Our Future Leaders

Over the past year, mental health has worsened due to the pandemic and various associated stressors, especially within our youth population. May is Mental Health Awareness Month – a time to provide support, resources and ways to stay connected to help youth in our state overcome challenges they may be facing and offer opportunities to grow as future leaders. 

According to the 2021 State of Mental Health in America, young people are struggling with their mental health. Throughout the pandemic youth ages 11-17 have been more likely than any other age group to experience moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. The report also shows that 60% of youth with depression do not receive any mental health treatment, even in states with the greatest access. 

In Arizona, 40.6% of youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row, enough so that they stopped doing some usual activities.  Additionally,15.9% of Arizona youth had at least one major depressive episode within the past year, higher than the national average of 13.8%. 

Youth experiencing mental health challenges are at risk of using substances if they do not have healthy coping skills on which to rely. Prevention programs can help youth address mental health challenges by equipping them with tools to build resilience. Youth4Youth is a local organization that aims to build leadership skills in youth, by empowering students to create proactive solutions to problems in their school and community. Through program participation students develop lifelong decision-making skills, a positive attitude and healthy lifestyle choices, and later become role models and mentors to younger students. Through this programming, students build the necessary skills to manage stressors they might experience.  This ability to effectively cope with stressors is critical in preventing initiation of substance use.  

This year, through its Mobilize AZ initiative, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona has granted Youth4Youth over $80,000 to help enhance its programs and create lasting change in our community. With these funds, Youth4Youth plans to implement school-based prevention programs and establish a Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Coalition in Peoria, Arizona. Youth4Youth is also engaged in substance misuse prevention, implementing opioid response programming, creating trauma informed school campuses, and developing educational campaigns.  

Together, BCBSAZ and Youth4Youth are committed to supporting youth in Arizona. If you or someone you know could benefit from a Youth4Youth program, visit: 

By: Jessica Yanow, Senior Manager Community Health & Advancement