In the Burroughs | Children's Minnesota | The Kid Experts

Too important to ignore

If you’re not convinced yet that there’s a mental health crisis in Minnesota, maybe this statistic will persuade you:

In 2021, Children’s Minnesota saw a 30% increase in the number of kids coming to our emergency departments with mental health concerns.

Let that sink in for a moment.

And then there’s this: In 2021, for the first time, suicidal ideation was one of the top 5 diagnoses at Children’s Minnesota.

The numbers are even tougher for certain groups of kids:

  • Black children are twice as likely to die by suicide than white children.
  • LGBTQ+ children are four times as likely to attempt suicide as heterosexual and cisgender children.
  • Black, Indigenous and Latino youth are much less likely to get screened for mental health issues.

My goal isn’t to overwhelm you with numbers. But the issue deserves attention, especially in July, which is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The goal of this month is to bring awareness to the unique mental health needs of racial and ethnic minority communities; to focus on promoting tools and resources that address the stigma of mental health in some communities. These tools in part will then assist these communities in getting the mental health services and support they need. This month is also designed to breakdown systemic racism and other barriers that lead to a lack of mental health services.

We know that 80% of health is determined by the conditions where people are born, live, learn, work and play. This is called “social determinants of health.” Many Black and brown people live, learn, work and play in places where there’s a lack of access to mental health services. Other factors are also at play, including structural racism and cultural stigma. To learn more, see how The National Alliance of Mental Illness details the barriers for mental health care for each of these communities: Black, Latino, Indigenous, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities.

At Children’s Minnesota, we’re in a unique position to treat the whole child—both their mental and physical needs. Here are some examples of how we’re increasing access to mental health care:

  • We’re expanding. This fall we’re opening our first inpatient mental health unit. It’ll be on the St. Paul campus and it’ll help 1,000 kids a year. Early next year, we’re opening a second “partial hospitalization program” in Roseville that will serve about 500 kids a year.
  • We’re building relationships. We’re developing trust with communities that have been historically marginalized by healthcare and other systems. We’re collaborating with community partners as we determine how we’ll deliver care to best serve kids from all communities.
  • We’re innovating. We’re finding ways to be more flexible in how and where services are provided to best meet community needs. And we’re identifying policy changes necessary to support that innovation.
  • We’re working to provide culturally responsive and gender-affirming care.
  • We’re measuring progress as we go.

This is just a start. And it’s crucial that we get this right. The earlier we get struggling kids — of all races, ethnicities and identities — effective, inclusive mental health treatment, the more likely they’ll become happy, healthy adults.

James Burroughs

James Burroughs
Senior vice president, government and community relations, chief equity and inclusion officer

James Burroughs is the senior vice president, government and community relations, chief equity and inclusion officer at Children's Minnesota. He is responsible for advancing equity and inclusion in all parts of the organization.
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