Hawai’i Medical Service Association invests $125,000 in youth mental health initiatives: Maui Now

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 revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant effect on young people in Hawaiʻi. Almost 2,200 more young people struggled with anxiety or depression in 2020 than in 2016, a 23% increase.

“Our adolescent population is struggling due to limited access to mental health resources, and we need to work together to support overall health conditions,” said the president and CEO of the Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association, Mark M. Mugiishi, MD, FACS.

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According to Hawaiʻi Health Matters, the most recent data on Hawaiian teenagers who attempted suicide in 2019 shows that 3.2% of public high school students reported at least one suicide attempt requiring medical attention, compared to 2.5 % at national scale.

The numbers are even more staggering for Native Hawaiians or when broken down by county. Investments from the Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association will support partner organizations and their work to address the 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 recipients of this initiative. The funding will help the organization expand the reach of its youth suicide and bullying prevention program statewide, with a focus on youth and adults serving youth in rural and isolated parts of the state.

Since 2008, this prevention program has trained nearly 30,000 Hawaiian youth and adults in youth service and has evolved to include things like Suicide Prevention 101 and Youth Mental Health First Aid certifications for adults.

“We anticipate that we will reach 2,000 additional youth and 1,000 youth-serving adults over the course of a year with HMSA support,” said Bryan Talisayan, executive director of Mental Health America of Hawaii.

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

  • Boys and Girls Club of Maui, One Stop Resource Center: The club operates walk-in service facilities that provide a safe, supportive and supervised environment for young people on Maui. The club establishes Maui’s first one-stop resource center for youth. The center will provide youth and their families with a more seamless support system and easier access to services, including suicide prevention, anger management and access to technology.
  • Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children, Adolescent Resilience Program (Oʻahu): Hawaiʻi Pacific Health’s Behavioral Health Division seeks to address rising rates of teen suicide by establishing an intervention program to identify at-risk youth and families and build protective mechanisms to protect them. As the hub of pediatric care in Hawaiʻi, Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women & Children in Honolulu has witnessed the rise in youth suicide. Kapi’olani’s Teen Resiliency program 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 and Bullying Prevention Program: The MHAH Youth Suicide and 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 when needed. The training takes place virtually or face-to-face for a mainly high school student audience.

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