Future Forum’s Underwood, Kennedy Discuss Mental Health Challenges of Young Americans

August 10, 2019 by Dan McCue

U.S. Representatives Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., and Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., hosted a forum in Yorkville, Ill. This week to discuss challenges young Americans face with mental health. 

Underwood and Kennedy are members of Future Forum, an influential group of young members of Congress who advocate for issues and opportunities important to younger Americans.

The event featured a discussion with young adults and mental health professionals and provided an opportunity for community members to share personal stories and discuss ways Congress can improve access to mental health care and resources.

Young people are the future of our country—our community leaders, our business owners, and our caretakers; but they’re facing a mental health crisis that is getting worse by the year,” Underwood said.

“Access to mental health services depends on a lot of factors—stigma, available providers, and not least of all, affordability,” the representative continued. “That’s why every day in Congress I fight to protect insurance coverage for mental health services and affordable access to care.”

“For too long mental health has been relegated to the sidelines of our system,” Kennedy said. “This is a burden our generation bears deeply, with unprecedented levels of depression, anxiety, substance use disorder and suicide. Conversations like the one today are critical to eliminating the stigma around mental illness and keeping this issue front and center in Congress.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth in the United States.

A recent study shows that the suicide rate among those ages 15 to 24 soared in 2017 to its highest point in nearly two decades.

In June, Future Forum members successfully secured a $2 million increase in resources for the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention grant program, which funds education and support services for vulnerable students in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, foster care systems, and juvenile justice systems. The measure was approved with broad bipartisan support.

Since its inception, Future Forum has visited nearly 50 cities to engage with millennial and Gen Z Americans where they live, work, and go to school on issues important to them.

That involvement is key, Underwood said.“I am optimistic that because of the voices we heard today and through continued engagement, we can work to create more environments where people can talk as openly about mental illness as a physical illness,” she said. “Thanks to Congressman Kennedy for joining me in this effort to reach out to young people, ask questions, listen intently, and commit to act.”

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