Child & Youth Mental Health

Our goal:

Children, youth, and caregivers of all races and ethnicities in Whatcom County have the support, connections, and healthy relationships they need to belong and thrive.

Why it matters:

Mental health plays a vital role in overcoming challenges and building resilience, self-esteem, healthy coping mechanisms, and strong relationships – all essential for success in life. Early intervention is key. By addressing mental health concerns early, we can prevent them from becoming bigger problems later in life.

While challenges in life are normal, they can become significant obstacles if left unaddressed. Black, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and Youth of Color face additional barriers like bias and lack of culturally relevant services. These barriers don’t define a young person’s future.  BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities are vibrant and strong. However, dismantling these barriers is crucial.  Discrimination in thoughts, beliefs, practices, and policies still exists. By working together, we can build resources and connections so all young people reach their full potential and every child and youth belongs and thrives.

Benefits of Early Intervention

  • The brain is most adaptable during childhood and adolescence. Early intervention with mental health concerns can prevent them from becoming chronic or worsening in adulthood.
  • Equipping young people with coping skills and emotional intelligence early on prepares them to handle future challenges.
  • Good mental health is crucial for healthy emotional, social, and academic development. Investing in support helps young people reach their full potential

Long-Term Advantages

  • Early intervention leads to better mental health outcomes in adulthood, reducing the risk of future problems and associated costs.
  • Untreated mental health issues in children can lead to problems for parents and future generations. Addressing them early can break this cycle.
  • Untreated mental health issues can lead to academic difficulties, substance abuse, and risky behaviors. Investing early helps prevent these problems.

Data highlights:

Child & Youth Mental Health in Whatcom County

10th grade (around 15-16 years old) represents a crucial period in adolescent development. This age group is often considered the peak risk for developing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, compared to younger or older youth. Transitioning from middle…

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What we’re working on:

The following are just a few of the ways our community is building programs and supports to increase positive child and youth mental health.

  • Partnerships with community organizations and all seven Whatcom County school districts to coordinate and support prevention coalitions and community groups. These coalitions work with schools and others to increase connections and support healthy youth and families.
  • Work with partners throughout the region, including other local health departments, coalitions, schools, and community partners, on strategies aimed at reducing underage cannabis and tobacco use.
  • Parents & caregivers have a significant impact on the development of their children, including the choices they make and their decision to be drug-free. Trusted, healthy adults can often help youth thrive despite the challenges and risks they may face. Developed positive community norms campaign to help parents & caregivers connect and engage with youth in a positive way and support other adults in doing the same.
  • Expanding mental health services in every school district in Whatcom County by awarding $3 million to schools.
  • The Common Goodness Project partners with schools, county government, and community organizations to provide comprehensive training on LGBTQIA youth well-being and WA state’s inclusive school laws. Last year, they helped build a more supportive and inclusive community by training over 450 people working with youth in Whatcom County.
  • Whatcom HEAL is a county-wide initiative to build healing-centered, culturally responsive organizations.  
  • Whatcom Family & Community Network engaged youth leaders in providing training and education on youth mental health and suicide prevention strategies with a substance use prevention lens.

Community Health Improvement strategies these programs address:

Healing-centered, anti-racist approaches

  • Create and share trauma-informed, healing-centered, anti-racist, LGBTQIA, and cultural humility training for parents/caregivers and professionals who interact with children & youth.
  • Ensure organizational assessments and processes are culturally responsive and free of implicit bias.

Expanding resources for preventative approaches

  • Increase programming for K-12 students, especially BIPOC and LGBTQIA children and youth, within public and Lummi Nation schools to educate children and youth on mental health and culturally responsive self-care in the spirit of trauma-informed, healing-centered, compassionate, and hope-informed practices. 
  • Increase the number of peer support groups for youth in 6-12 grade public schools and the community.
  • Develop specific roles within school districts to support BIPOC and LGBTQIA youth.

Opportunities for connections, especially for LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC youth

  • Increase one-to-one and group peer support opportunities for parents/caregivers and those expecting children.
  • Adopt a culturally responsive, accessible curriculum that includes classes, coaching, and home visits to build skills for parents and caregivers.
  • Implement a coordinated entry system to access resources and expand access to mental health services for pregnant, perinatal, and expecting parents. 
  • Create more professional paid positions within schools, child care, and health care to support mental health initiatives for parents and families.

How to Get Involved:

Are you interested in collaborating with our Child & Youth Mental Health action team, or supporting our work through your organization? Please get in touch: we’d love to hear from you!