With its latest initiative, the Morgan Stanley Foundation takes on the growing challenge of anxiety and depression in young people, by combining forces with innovative experts in the field of mental health.
These days, you can hardly turn on the news or scroll through your social media feed without coming across one more tragic story about a young person who was suffering in silence: an overdose, a suicide attempt or worse. In fact, suicide is now one of the leading causes of death in children. Let me repeat that: in children!
Childhood and adolescence are meant to be times for growth, learning, exploration and play. Yet for an increasing number of young people, the struggle with anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges robs them of those opportunities and poses an urgent and often overlooked threat to their well-being.
The problem is incredibly complex, and there is no single answer. But clearly, as a society, we need to make it a priority to reverse this trend and to provide all kids with the proper tools and resources required not only to survive but to thrive and flourish.
Our Proud Tradition
Since its inception, the Morgan Stanley Foundation has focused on giving children the healthy start they need in life to succeed. Over the 20-plus years I have led this organization, we have achieved tremendous success in advancing children’s physical health by delivering the highest quality medical care and by addressing the critical issues of nutrition and play, in addition to promoting wellness in general.
But I am convinced that we aren’t doing enough if we don’t also address children’s mental health. My colleagues on the Foundation’s Board of Directors and I have set out to change that.
Evaluating a Growing Problem
Our first step was to try to understand exactly how mental illness is affecting children and what is being done about it. Many of our own Board members have had a young family member facing mental health challenges, and through our research, we discovered just how typical their experiences were. Of the 74.5 million children in the United States, an estimated 17 million have or have had a mental health disorder1. When we looked at what was happening in vulnerable communities, we were even more alarmed. Among children experiencing poverty who need mental healthcare, it is estimated that less than 15% receive services and even fewer complete treatment2.
As we continued to delve into this topic, we were encouraged by the number of nonprofit organizations working in the space and by some of the promising innovations and evidence-based solutions they were delivering. It was clear, though, that these groups were not receiving enough funding to bring their solutions to scale and that their voices, while strong, needed to be louder.
Expanding Our Reach
With that knowledge and conviction, our Board made the decision to expand its efforts to include children’s mental health, and in February, 2020, we launched the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health (Alliance).
This new initiative will use the resources of the Morgan Stanley Foundation, as well as the knowledge and experience of our key nonprofit partner organizations in this space, in order to address children’s mental health, specifically the far-reaching challenges of stress, anxiety and depression. Our inaugural non-profit partner organizations are Child Mind Institute, The Jed Foundation, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, and the Steve Fund in the U.S; and Mind HK, Place2Be and SAMH (Scottish Association Mental Health) internationally.
The Alliance will work to deliver catalytic philanthropy and tangible results, particularly in vulnerable communities. We will scale the proven methods of our non-profit partner organizations through growth capital; sustain the goals of these organizations through capacity building; bring new, innovative ideas to fruition through seed funding; and use our voice and broad global footprint to raise awareness, drive advanced thinking and reduce stigma. The Alliance will specifically concentrate on changing practices and systems at schools and universities to enable them to provide students with necessary resources and support during formative transitions, and on equipping all parents with the tools and knowledge to identify and support the mental health needs of their children
For more than 50 years, the Morgan Stanley Foundation has been dedicated to improving children’s health. There is no doubt in my mind that promoting and supporting the additional goal of solid mental health for all children is key to maintaining that mission going forward. We are proud to introduce the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children's Mental Health and excited to take on this important issue. Together we will work toward driving meaningful and lasting impact on children and their families both here and around the world.