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The youth mental health crisis in America has been on the rise for years. But since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, it’s only gotten worse. From 2019 to 2020, mental health-related emergency room visits increased 31% in children ages 12 to 17.1 In the same year, suicide was reported as the second-leading cause of death among children ages 10 to 14.

Even more recently, in 2023, 50% of young adults (ages 18–24) reported symptoms of anxiety or depression,3 while more than 15% of children ages 12 to 17 reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode in the past year. More than sixty percent of those children didn’t get treatment.4

Alarming, right? It’s even more so when you consider that, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, mental health is the leading cause of poor life outcomes in young people. And this fact is especially true for children in marginalized or diverse communities.

If you’re the parent of a child or adolescent or know someone who is, there are some important things to know when dealing with youth mental health.

What factors can have an impact on my child’s mental health?

While it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why the mental health crisis has risen over the years, there are several factors that can affect a child’s mental health.5 These include:

  • Society – This might include inequalities or discrimination a child may experience as part of their social and economic status.
  • Environment – This might be how safe a neighborhood is, the kind of pollution around, or what kind of access is available to nature and healthy food.
  • Community – This might be your child’s relationship to community figures like teachers or pastors, or what their experience is like at school.
  • Family - This might be a child’s relationship to their parents or other family, or it could be financial stability or other issues in the home.
  • Individual – This might be your children’s age or gender, or it could be their sexual orientation or how they cope with problems.

How will I know something is wrong? Are there warning signs?

While it’s common for children to go through behavioral or emotional problems as they age, often, these issues will resolve with time. If they don’t, there might be something else going on. Here are some critical warning signs to look for:

  • Persistent sadness and neglect. Sad or depressed behavior lasting for two weeks or more could be a sign that something bigger is going on. This could also include not wanting to bath, brush their teeth, or change their clothes.
  • Decline in school performance and interest. This could be poor grades or missing school and other activities altogether. You might also see your child losing interest in things that used to bring them joy.
  • Changes to sleeping or eating patterns. Prolonged sadness can result in trouble sleeping or sleeping too much. It might also cause a change to appetite, like hiding food, eating too much, or not eating enough.  
  • Severe mood swings. This might include extreme irritability, changes in personality, or out-of-control and harmful behavior. This is typically behavior that is out of character for your child.
  • Difficulty concentrating. Maybe it’s trouble paying attention or making decisions, or it could be difficulty remembering certain things.
  • Self-harm or talk of suicide. Look for signs like cutting, burning, or the appearance of unexplained bruising and scratching.
  • Frequent headaches and stomachaches. This could be a sign of anxiety or other mental health disorder and can interfere with someone’s daily activities.

How can I help my child or loved one through this difficult time?

Remember, you know your child or loved one best. If you sense something is off, or if you’re child comes to you for help, take it seriously. Here are some ways to stay supportive:

Be there to listen: Check in with your child regularly and make sure they feel safe and supported with their feelings. They should know there’s no judgement and that they always have you as a listening ear.

Stay involved: Children often feel most supported and valued when parents and loved ones take an active interest in their lives. Encouraging their interests and being active in their lives could also help you spot problems in their behavior and emotions easier.

Ask questions: If you suspect something may be going on with your child or loved one, have a conversation with them. But give them plenty of space to talk. You can ask questions like:

  1. How are you feeling?
  2. Is there anything you want to talk about?
  3. Tell me about your day.

Educate yourself: For children and adolescents to get the right help and ensure their needs are met, parents and loved ones need to be educated. Parents who understand mental health, what the signs are, and how to be a helpful advocate will likely have more success navigating the journey.

Get professional support: Part of being educated is also understanding when professional help is needed. Don’t be afraid to seek out mental health professionals who are trained to help you and your child manage treatment.  

What resources are available for me or my child?

Our commitment to tackling the mental health crisis is a long-term one. Part of that commitment is helping ensure members and the community are educated and have access to mental health resources.

Here are some resources you can try:

  • Visit or call one of our Florida Blue Centers and talk with one of our community specialists. They can help connect you to resources in your area and answer any questions you have. Visit your local center or call 1-877-352-5830 to speak to a community specialist. Our Centers are available to anyone, whether you’re a member or not.
  • You can also call our behavioral health care partner, Lucet, at 1-866-287-9569. They can help you locate a licensed therapist that meets your needs. They may also be able to schedule your in-person or virtual visit with a therapist.
  • meQuilibrium is an online mental well-being program designed to help you face each day with confidence. By using meQuilibrium, you can build resilience, learn ways to combat stress and cope with anxiety, improve your sleep, and learn tips to help others cope with their mental health. It is available at no extra cost with most health plans. Look for meQuilibrium in the Find & Get Care section of your member account.
  • If you’re eligible for our care programs, reach out to your care manager for more information on mental health care. With the BlueForMe app, you can do it through your smart device.


*meQuilibrium is an independent company contracted by Florida Blue to provide health and wellness services and resources to members. This benefit is available to Florida Blue members age 18 and older. Eligibility is limited to members with an individual or family plan, an individual or family ACA plan and members with coverage from their fully insured group employer health plan.

**Florida Blue has entered into an arrangement with Wellframe to provide members with care decision support services, information and other services. All decisions that require or pertain to independent professional medical/clinical judgement or training, or the need for medical services, are solely the member’s responsibility and the responsibility of their physicians and other health care providers. Wellframe is an independent company that provides online services to Florida Blue members through the BlueforMe app.

***Florida Blue contracts with Lucet to provide behavioral health services.


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Emergency Department Visits for Suspected Suicide Attempts

2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Changes in Suicide Rates — United States, 2019 and 2020

3Kaiser Family Foundation: The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use

4Mental Health America: 2022 State of Mental Health in America

5U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Surgeon General Youth Mental Health Advisory

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