Alliance for Children's Mental Health: Year One Look Back

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Morgan Stanley’s initiative aimed at helping young people cope with anxiety and depression, has made meaningful strides.
Apr 19, 2021 10:50 AM ET

Morgan Stanley Articles

When the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health launched in February 2020, depression and anxiety among young people were already at a two-decade high, a crisis exacerbated by stigma and lack of treatment, particularly in vulnerable communities.1

Then came the coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID-19 and all its repercussions have taken a huge toll on children’s mental health. With exponential increases in depression and anxiety among children around the world, it is clear we need coordinated efforts to prevent the existing global crisis in children’s mental health from escalating even further,” says Ted Pick, Head of the Institutional Securities Group at Morgan Stanley and Chair of the Alliance for Children’s Mental Health Advisory Board. “Through the Alliance for Children’s Mental Health, we have brought together a diverse set of nonprofit organizations that are able to have a meaningful impact on the mental health of children and youth through grant-making, thought leadership, seed-funding and engagement.”

During this challenging year, the Alliance, a collaboration that leverages the resources of Morgan Stanley and the expertise of nonprofit members in the mental health space, continues to step up to fund critical research on children’s mental health and support new and growing programs in schools, hospitals and physicians’ offices, across the country and around the world. Together, these programs have directly benefited more than three million students, parents and teachers.

Highlights from our U.S.-based Alliance partners:

  • The Child Mind Institute, an independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders, created a new set of digital children’s mental health care resources in Spanish that has already been delivered to over one million underserved parents. They also launched a wide range of Covid 19-related resources for parents, educators and youth, and are conducting research studies to better understand how the pandemic is affecting the mental health of children and families..
  • The Jed Foundation, the nation’s leading nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation's teens and young adults, designed and implemented their comprehensive high school program and piloted it at 18 high schools nationwide to help schools address the mental health needs of their students. Roughly 50% of mental illness begins before college but most school districts and high schools do not have comprehensive plans to address their student’s needs. In addition, JED expanded their college program to 44 new schools bringing the total number of colleges in JED Campus to 351, thereby providing mental health safeguards and support for more than four million students.

  • The Steve Fund, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization focused on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color, launched the Equity in Mental Health on Campus initiative with five campuses, reaching roughly 80,000 students across the country.

  • NewYork Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, a world-class provider of comprehensive pediatric care, established a new program to diagnose, assess and care for youth in underserved communities in New York City who are struggling with mental health issues to prevent them from requiring more intensive treatment and hospitalizations in an emergency setting. The program hopes to serve as a scalable and replicable model for hospitals and health systems around the country. Its innovations have included developing high intensity care for youth delivered on a telehealth platform for a diverse community that is disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This model has enhanced acute pediatric behavioral health care across a large community outpatient service.

  • Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, among the top-ranked psychiatry departments in the nation, joined the Alliance in November and embarked on a series of research projects to better understand and address the impact of COVID-19 on children’s mental health.

Highlights from our global partners:

  • Place2Be a UK-based charity with a mission to improve the mental wellbeing of children in schools across the UK, launched a program that has already upskilled over 6,000 teachers in London and Glasgow on issues related to children’s mental health.

  • SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health), Scotland’s national mental health charity, delivered a school-based program in Glasgow to support the mental health of young people, particularly in their transition from primary to secondary school.

  • Mind HK, a charity committed to improving awareness and understanding of mental health in Hong Kong, launched mental health online and offline resources and training for students, teachers and parents.

Supporting Mental Health Care Awareness and Innovation

Additionally, the Alliance launched an extensive thought leadership program to raise awareness of children’s mental health issues, reduce stigma and offer solutions that focus on the impact of COVID-19. This included its inaugural convening, which engaged educators and mental health professionals virtually across the U.S. in discussing pandemic-related mental health effects on young people and the importance of building communities of wellness and healing in response.

The Alliance also publicized research findings highlighting the potential impact of COVID-19 on youth mental health and identifying those most at risk. It will continue its COVID-19 research efforts and generate more evidence-based solutions to make a lasting impact on children’s mental health, with a particular focus on vulnerable communities.

To further its goals, the Alliance will launch its inaugural Innovation Awards in the spring of 2021 to identify and seed-fund emerging ideas in the field of mental health care for children and young people.

“The insufficient investment in children’s mental health from the private and public sectors, as well as the lack of an effective way to connect innovative ideas with capital, has created a systemic funding gap that has only increased with the deepening crisis in children’s mental health due to COVID-19 and ongoing social injustice issues,” says Joan Steinberg, Morgan Stanley’s Global Head of Community Affairs, President of the Morgan Stanley Foundation and CEO of the Alliance Advisory Board, “With the Innovation Awards, we aim to identify and seed-fund game-changing mental health care solutions for children and young people, especially within vulnerable communities,”

The Alliance will also double down on its efforts to provide additional support for those children who may struggle to re-engage with schools and broader societal life, as we all recover and move on from COVID-19 disruptions. This could be particularly challenging for those with preexisting mental health conditions, those who are at risk, or those who have been traumatized by the pandemic and its consequences. The Alliance will create a multifaceted program to help educators, families and communities tackle these issues and to prevent any children falling through cracks.

“Despite the multitude of events that have taken place over the past year, children’s mental health is finally at the forefront of people’s minds, and it needs to stay that way,” says Pick. “We are seeing millions of children struggle with the socially distanced lifestyle brought on by COVID-19, as well as the associated trauma. Over the next year, the Alliance for Children’s Mental Health will do everything in our power to ensure this generation of children have the right tools and guidance to emerge from this time even more resilient.”