The mental healthcare system in the United States needs a dramatic intervention. At best, our system is fragmented, siloed, and plagued by misaligned incentives that only deepen existing problems; at worst, critics might conclude that providing timely, effective mental health care to people in need is not its goal. Structural fixes are desperately needed to ensure equitable access to quality mental health care for everyone who needs it.

This includes our young people, who now face a worsening mental health crisis, exacerbated by a perfect storm of stressors including social unrest, acts of violence, bias and oppression directed at people of color and LBGTQ+ individuals, and the loss, grief, and isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis urgently needs to be addressed, even if our mental health system is not designed to help everyone who needs it—which means that we must pursue all viable options. And partnerships with philanthropic organizations will be critical in turning the tide of this crisis.

In this country, almost one in three young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 and one in four teenagers experience a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety. However, fewer than half of young people who needed mental health care in 2020 received it. Even for those who are brave enough to seek help, it is still heartbreakingly difficult to get the timely, affordable care they need.

Philanthropists will want to make sure that their gifts will be put to immediate use and make an impact. While many nonprofit organizations seek to build endowments to support long-term financial goals, to address the mental health crisis our young people face, philanthropy is needed for the implementation of near- and medium-term strategies and plans to strengthen our mental healthcare systems.

Philanthropists should systematically review what they are funding to ensure that the initiatives they support align with the urgency of our public mental health goals, have a plan with measurable goals and a reasonable chance of success, and feature collaboration that fosters communication, coordination, and synergy and provide incentives that help align all stakeholders around the shared goal of improving equitable access to care.

Read the full article about mental healthcare by John MacPhee at Philanthropy News Digest.