COVID-19 has exacerbated many risk factors for youth depression and suicide, leading three of the nation’s top pediatric healthcare organizations to recently declare a National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health.
“Years of isolation and loss stemming from COVID-19, combined with our social media culture and other factors, have led adolescents to feel more alone, and more stigmatized, in their mental health challenges,” said Cara McNulty, DPA, President, Behavioral Health and Mental Wellbeing, CVS Health. “As a result, we are targeting several programs and services directly toward youth as part of our steadfast commitment to mental wellbeing and suicide reduction.”
Aetna, a CVS Health company, recently expanded its ongoing programs with Psych Hub, the world’s most comprehensive platform for mental health education. This effort is also part of Aetna’s comprehensive strategy to reduce member suicide attempts by 20 percent by the year 2025.
Preventing suicide among youth
Aetna and Psych Hub have launched an Adolescent Treatment Training Series to meet the urgent needs of youth and young adults. This joint effort arms the 283,000 behavioral health and employee assistance program providers in Aetna’s commercial network, Aetna’s internal clinicians and CVS Health’s licensed counselors at MinuteClinic in select HealthHUB locations with access to a no-cost, evidence-based curriculum in the form of courses and resources to identify and treat adolescents and young adults along a full continuum of care, from prevention through intervention, for those at risk of suicide.
“When working with adolescents, it is important to accept and validate their experience while also offering hope that they unfortunately cannot see,” said Marjorie Morrison, Chief Executive Officer, Psych Hub. “We are honored to continue our collaboration with Aetna to support their care providers, especially around such an urgent issue as youth suicide prevention.”
This program builds off the adult specialty suicide prevention continuing education series that Aetna and Psych Hub launched in 2021. The new, youth-focused program is concentrated on concepts from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which is a highly structured type of treatment that that has been adapted very successfully for adolescents with extreme emotional instability, including self-harm and suicidal ideation. Additionally, mental health practitioners’ complete learning modules on how to partner with parents, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for adolescents and the best therapies for high-risk communities such as BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth.
Candid conversations with youth on mental health
To further engage and support adolescent mental health, Aetna and Psych Hub will soon launch a limited, joint podcast series, Real Talk with Gen Z, in which youth and young adults lead candid conversations with some of the nation’s leading mental health organizations. Over three episodes, the conversations will focus on the specific experiences of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth and mental health challenges such as loneliness and isolation. Featuring guests from The Trevor Project, the JED Foundation and more, the podcast aims to demonstrate to these critical populations that they are heard, understood and that services are available to support them.
New and expanding adolescent suicide prevention programs
Aetna’s Caring Contacts program, which has shown up to a 70 percent reduction of repeat suicide attempts with adults who have received the postcards, was also adapted for adolescents who have been discharged from an inpatient stay after a suicide attempt in 2021. This program has now been expanded to adolescents being discharged from emergency departments and to other adolescents who may benefit from such support.
In addition, Aetna is also beginning proactive clinical outreach to high-risk adolescents and their families to ensure they are connected to a full array of available resources, reduce their risk for suicide and improve individual and family mental well-being.