Maui Business

Hawai’i Medical Service Association invests $125,000 for youth mental health initiatives

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Photo Credit: Liza Summer

In response to the urgent need for resources to address the youth mental health crisis in our local communities, Hawai‘i Medical Service Association is investing $125,000 to support five unique programs across the state.

The KIDS COUNT 2022 Hawaiʻi profile found that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on Hawaiʻi’s young people. Nearly 2,200 more youth struggled with anxiety or depression in 2020 than in 2016, an increase of 23%.

“Our teenage population is struggling due to limited access to mental health resources, and we need to work together to support overall health conditions,” said Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association President and CEO Mark M. Mugiishi, M.D., F.A.C.S.

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According to Hawaiʻi Health Matters, the most recent data on Hawaiʻi teens who attempted suicide in 2019 show that 3.2% of public high school students reported at least one suicide attempt that required medical attention, compared to 2.5% nationally.

The numbers are even more staggering for Native Hawaiians or when broken down by county. Investments by the Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association will support partner organizations and their work to address root causes of these disparities while providing innovative crisis support.

Mental Health America of Hawaiʻi, an organization that seeks to promote mental health and wellness through education, advocacy, service and access to care statewide, is one of the beneficiaries of this initiative. The funding will help the organization expand the reach of its statewide Youth Suicide & Bullying Prevention program with special emphasis placed on reaching youth and youth-serving adults in rural and isolated parts of the state.

Since 2008, that prevention program has trained nearly 30,000 Hawaiʻi youth and youth-serving adults and has evolved to include components like Suicide Prevention 101 and Youth Mental Health First Aid certifications for adults.

“We project that we will reach an additional 2,000 youth and 1,000 youth-serving adults over the course of a year as a direct result of HMSA’s support,” said Bryan Talisayan, executive director of Mental Health America of Hawaiʻi.

The Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association will support the following community organizations to increase access to mental health resources as part of this initiative:

  • Boys and Girls Club of Maui, One Stop Resource Center: The club operates drop-in service facilities that provide a safe, supportive, supervised environment for Maui youth. The club is establishing Maui’s first One Stop Resource Center for youth. The center will provide youth and their families a more seamless support system and easier access to services, including suicide prevention, anger management and technology access.
  • Hale ‘Ōpio Kaua‘i, Ke Kahua O Ka Malamalama program: Hale ‘Ōpio provides culturally grounded, youth-driven, family centered collaborative services that reflect the continuous positive regard in which youth and family are held. The Ke Kahua O Ka Malamalama program is an after-school and intercession program where youth learn and practice Hawaiian arts, cultural traditions and values taught by selected kūpuna while exploring their natural environment.
  • Big Island Substance Abuse Council, BISAC Youth Services program: BISAC is one of the leading providers of substance abuse treatment and behavioral health care on the Big Island. BISAC Youth Services is a school-based program servicing 10 schools. They provide substance use counseling, prevention education, vaping support groups, links to community resources and workshops for students, parents and staff. It also offers referrals to higher levels of care.
  • Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children, Teen Resiliency Program (Oʻahu): Hawaiʻi Pacific Health’s Behavioral Health Division seeks to address rising teen suicide rates by establishing an intervention program to identify young people and families at risk and increase protective mechanisms to keep them from harm. As the hub of pediatric care in Hawaiʻi, Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children in Honolulu has witnessed the rise in youth suicide. The Teen Resiliency Program at Kapi‘olani will give patients access to comprehensive care in one place, with resources to meet their routine and emergency needs.
  • Mental Health America of Hawaii, Youth Suicide & Bullying Prevention Program: MHAH’s Youth Suicide & Bullying Program began was created based on local and national research. This training aims to increase knowledge and understanding of bullying and suicide, identify risk factors and warning signs, and provide skills and resources to prevent or intervene as needed. The training is conducted virtually or in person for a primarily high school audience.

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