Strategic Plan Addresses Youth Mental Health in the Greater Susquehanna Region

The Greater Susquehanna Valley and Columbia-Montour United Ways released a comprehensive report and strategic plan to address Youth Mental Health in Rural Central Pennsylvania.

The report is the result of the Rural Central Pennsylvania Youth Mental Health Task Force, led by the United Ways. This is a group of nearly sixty school social workers, counselors, community/non-profit leaders, and mental health providers which originally convened in Nov. 2018 to discuss the growing challenge we face with increasing youth mental health issues.

According to the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) 2018 results, more than one in third of the adolescents in our region (Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, and Union counties) report having felt sad or depressed most days in the last twelve months; one in five report having planned their suicide; and one in five report having attempted suicide. Further, according to the Centers for Disease Control, youth in rural areas are 1.8 more likely to die by suicide.

“The data is alarming,” says Joanne Troutman, president & CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley. “So many children are not only not getting the services they need, but their mental health challenges often go unrecognized. Every system, from education to healthcare to human services, are vastly under-resourced when it comes to mental health supports.  In our rural community, we face multiple challenges which take away from the holistic care, nurturing, and mental growth of our young people. The report details each challenge and respective recommendations and objectives. The report also attempts to paint a comprehensive picture of the current Youth Mental Health landscape as well as the next steps and a policy agenda for how to enact change.”

The plan lists the following goals to be accomplished over the next 10 years, as reflected by the PAYS survey and other local data:

  • improving depressive symptoms of adolescents in each county by 50 percent
  • improving “Total Protection” of adolescents by 10 points
  • eliminating adolescent deaths by suicide

Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way and United Way of Columbia-Montour County are collective impact organizations serving rural central Pennsylvania, the counties of Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union. The mission of United Way is to fight for the health, income and financial stability of every person in every community.