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Mayor Harrell and Coalition of Health Leaders Launch New Youth Mental Health Initiative Focused on Prevention and Early Intervention

Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell joined Seattle youth and education, health, and community partners to announce the launch of Reach Out Seattle, a new initiative focused on prevention and early intervention of youth mental and behavioral health challenges. 

By uniting 12 sectors and stakeholders across the city, the initiative seeks to disrupt the progression to adult disease and create a healthier future for Seattle’s youth and the entire community.

“Youth experiencing mental or behavioral health challenges deserve compassion, care, and support from the trusted adults in their life to put them on a path towards healing and wellness,” said Mayor Harrell. “By taking a One Seattle approach and bringing together leaders experienced in working with young people from across our city to prioritize prevention, help youth build resilience and healthy coping skills, and align and amplify supportive resources, Reach Out Seattle will ensure our response to the youth mental health crisis is comprehensive and centers youth voices and the needs of the community.”

READ: “Reach Out Seattle” – A Youth Mental Health Initiative Fact Sheet

Reach Out Seattle will promote youth mental health and overall wellness by developing community learning programs that focus on prevention, early identification, and non-clinical intervention strategies to equip parents, caregivers, and trusted adults with the tools and training needed to support a youth in distress. This model of offering standardized learning programs to community is based on the Seattle Fire Department’s successful Medic I and II Programs and aims to empower residents to be first responders.

Developed with input from Seattle youth and youth mental health providers, the learning programs will teach community members how to how to identify a young person displaying signs of mental or behavioral health challenges, when and how to intervene, as well as how to coordinate access to available resources if clinical intervention is necessary. The learning programs will incorporate youth perspectives to ensure the materials provided to the community are responsive to their needs and include identification and prevention techniques from mental and behavioral health specialists.

The initiative also includes a youth-led multi-media public education campaign to raise awareness and destigmatize the conversation around mental health in the community.

Mayor Harrell announced the new initiative at Ingraham High School, where an on-campus shooting killed a student in fall 2022. Responding to urgent student requests to increase resources for mental health following the shooting, Mayor Harrell and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda advanced a proposal to invest $9.4 million in the 2023 budget in school mental health resources for Seattle students. This initiative will complement the new $4.5 million investment in the Student Mental Health Supports Pilot to improve student mental health and academic outcomes.

“The world our young people are growing up in today is very different than when I attended school in Seattle,” said Mayor Harrell. “As the threat and incidence of gun violence continues to increase nationwide, we know that too often the lasting scars on our young people aren’t only physical. Our youth deserve safe, supportive environments to learn, grow, and reach adulthood, and it will take an all-of-society effort like we are advancing with the Reach Out Seattle initiative to support the mental health and wellbeing of our youth.”

A youth resource fair and town hall will be held on June 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, 104 17th Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98144. This event will bring together city leaders, teens, and other community members to connect youth to local programs and opportunities and discuss ways to enhance services offered.

What People Are Saying:

“Youth in King County and across the nation are facing a mental health crisis, but our healthcare system has not kept up. It is vital that everyone has access to the help they need, and I’m proud to support this initiative in expanding mental health resources for youth. I commend the Mayor and all partners on this important investment in our youth and in our collective future.”

Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, King County Council

“It’s inspiring to have so many impassioned leaders, educators, and students join together to support our young people. In addition to the $4 million dollar youth mental health investment we achieved in this year’s City budget, the Seattle Youth Mental Health Initiative is set to make a serious positive impact on the lives of our students and the health of our community.”

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, City of Seattle

“I appreciate First Lady Harrell responding with this initiative to the call from Governor Inslee declaring a mental and behavioral health state of emergency for our young people. These resources are desperately needed to address the shadow pandemic – fear, grief, and isolation which can erupt into self-harm and harm to others.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 52% of Washingtonians age 12–17 with depression did not receive any care in the last year.  I’ve championed funds for innovative mental health services at local middle and high schools, which are providing student-led programming, staff training by mental health providers on trauma-informed instructional practices, clinicians leading 1:1 and drop-in group counseling, and workshops on healing and resiliency.  But we need to do more.  We know that, with help, healing is possible.”

Councilmember Lisa Herbold, City of Seattle

“We must invest in our youth today. Reach Out Seattle brings together our residents, public, and private sectors of the City to prevent, identify, and treat youth mental illness. By creating a coordinated system where every door is the right door for support and services, our youth and families will have the opportunity to move beyond the current mental health crisis to mature and thrive to their fullest potential in the future.”

Dr. Leslie R. Walker-Harding, Chair and Associate Dean in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington; Chief Academic Officer and Senior Vice President, Seattle Children’s Hospital

“The Reach Out Seattle initiative has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of supporting youth mental health. By empowering the community with the skills to identify early warning signs of a mental health crisis in young people, along with providing practical intervention strategies, we can make a profound impact on the wellbeing of our youth.”

Dr. Janine Jones, Professor, School Psychology, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Education, University of Washington

“I know that the kind of change we want for our young people requires every part of our community to come together in unified commitment. This is the spirit of One Seattle, and we are so honored to be a part of it. These are our kids, and they deserve our very best effort.”

Reba Gonzales, Director, Community Safety and Communications Center

“Continued investment in student mental health is not just an act of compassion, but a strategic imperative. Reach Out Seattle is another tool that strengthens the safety net of services that will better support student mental health and pave the way for academic and life success. When students’ minds are nurtured and cared for, their success soars, unlocking their full potential and building a brighter future for us all.”

Dwane Chappelle, Director, Department of Education and Early Learning

“Our region’s young people have shown incredible strength through much adversity over the past few years, and they deserve our continued investment in their holistic health and well-being. King County and Public Health – Seattle & King County are committed to partnering with the City of Seattle, our young people and their communities in support of youth mental health.”

Dr. Faisal Khan, Director, Public Health — Seattle & King County