Editorial: Even in austerity, keep priority on youth mental health

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Read the full editorial here.

When it comes to discussing funding for addressing the mental health needs of Illinois youth, we have to be realistic. The outlook for advances, perhaps even for stability, in a state that is sliding backward economically is not promising.

Finding what will help and what will keep them out of the system in the first place is a key mission of the DuPage juvenile justice council, which will begin its examination working with researchers at Aurora University’s criminal justice department. Beyond recognizing the link between the system and mental illness, the council has yet to develop strategies, but is concentrating on community-based approaches and awareness campaigns.

It’s a reasonable place to start and recognizes, in Harnett’s words, “we just don’t have those resources” to address the problem from within the system. With the resources likely to remain in short supply, the group can make headway by turning to community programs and educating students, parents, educators and everyone who deals with young people about the prevalence and pernicious dangers of mental illness.

The statistics demonstrate the costs mental illness imposes on society; stories like that of Ben Silver show its imposing strength. Our state will not survive the coming years without some measure of austerity, we know; but what survives will be demonstrably weaker if we ignore the effects of mental illness on the young.