Federal award comes as surgeon general warns of youth mental health crisis
Congressman Brian Higgins announced a $1.2 million grant through the U.S. Department of Justice’s multistate mentoring programs initiative to Compeer International, based in Western New York. The award will provide support to youth diagnosed with mental health challenges in the Buffalo-Niagara Region and across several states.
“The last couple of years have been tough on all of us, but our kids especially are suffering,” Higgins said. “This funding for Compeer’s evidence-based mentoring model answers the urgent call to better support young people.”
This is the second time Compeer has been successful in securing an award. A previous federal grant, funded from 2018-21, allowed for over 1,300 youth to be matched with a mentor and supported social engagement for more than 2,460 youth at 13 sites across five states, including in the greater Buffalo area.
CEO Tim Boling said, “Compeer is thrilled once again to receive this grant that will allow us to serve 1,000 more youth at various locations who have mental health challenges. The mental health needs of today’s youth have continued to climb to alarming rates through the pandemic, and now more than ever youth need the support of the Compeer program.”
Compeer Inc. is an international nonprofit agency providing mentoring support to individuals with mental illness through 46 affiliate agencies in seven states and four countries. The new federal grant will allow Compeer Youth Mentoring to maintain 500 existing matches and connect an additional 1,000 youth with a mentor. Furthermore, up to 2,500 youth awaiting matches will be served through social engagements.
A press release stated, “By addressing the social and emotional challenges that often accompany a mental health issue, mentoring helps to reduce isolation, increasing the likelihood that struggling youth can get through school and decreasing the probability of substance abuse or criminal activity.”
The grant comes as the U.S. surgeon general issued an advisory highlighting the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, in part, “Mental health challenges in children, adolescents and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide – and rates have increased over the past decade. The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating. The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five children ages 13 to 18 experience a serious mental illness, ranging from obsessive-compulsive disorder to behavioral or conduct disorders, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and other mental health disorders that impact daily functioning. Suicide resulting from mental illness is the leading cause of death among middle school students and the second-leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 19.
For more information on Compeer’s services, visit www.compeerbuffalo.org.