Morgan Stanley
  • Giving Back
  • Apr 29, 2024

Doing Right by Our Kids: Answering the Urgent Need for Mental Health Action

The Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health enters its next chapter with increased funding and new members to boost support for scalable solutions.

Young people are in the midst of a mental health crisis. They face a growing array of stressors, and data on their mental health outcomes show the urgent need for better support. The Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health aims to help address this crisis, expanding on work that has illustrated the scope of the problem and brought together the people and organizations bringing innovative, scalable solutions.

To continue our work, the Alliance is boosting its commitment to youth mental health with an additional $20 million, bringing this initiative’s funding to $50 million since its launch in 2020. We are also adding two new members to the Alliance: The American Academy of Pediatrics and Sesame Workshop bring important expertise in developing the mental health workforce and addressing mental health in early childhood.

The need is urgent. Last year, over 2.7 million young people in the U.S. experienced severe depression, and healthcare services fell short, with nearly 60% of youth who experienced a major depressive episode receiving no treatment. Suicide remains the second leading cause of death for children and young adults. Marginalized and vulnerable communities continue to bear the brunt of these issues due to significant gaps in care and shortages of mental health workers.

Our Alliance was created in 2020 as an initiative of the Morgan Stanley Foundation. The Foundation has worked for decades to promote children’s health through high-quality medical care, nutrition, wellness and other supports aimed at giving children a healthy start in life. It had become apparent that a sharper focus on child mental health was needed—and the urgency has only increased in the intervening years.   

The first chapter of the Alliance’s work opened our eyes to how dire the situation is. There are no easy solutions, but as daunting as the task may seem, we are moving forward — supporting the many innovative solutions that are being brought to the youth mental health field.

The Next Chapter

While there is growing awareness and discussion around mental health challenges, the sector is still vastly underfunded and we believe that the private sector has a critically needed role to play. Many children and families lack access to mental healthcare, and demand is at an all-time high, especially in underserved communities. This is the need we aim to address with our new $20 million commitment over the next five years. The $50 million total now pledged to the Alliance’s work will strengthen the delivery of results-driven programming and research, advance transformative solutions through our Innovation Awards program, and expand our reach and collaboration to drive more impact for kids of all ages.

We are thrilled to welcome our new Alliance members. The American Academy of Pediatrics is uniquely positioned to strengthen the preparedness of pediatricians to address the immediate mental health needs of children, specifically targeting medically underserved communities. This addresses a vital need as we seek to help increase access to mental healthcare for young people. Nearly 160 million Americans live in areas with professional help in short supply. As the children’s mental health crisis and the shortage of mental health workers continue, increased access to proper care is imperative.

Sesame Workshop, the global impact nonprofit behind Sesame Street, will expand its organization-wide early childhood mental health initiative to focus on early detection and prevention and helping young children and their circle of care in marginalized communities across the U. S. address issues as early as possible. Supporting children’s mental health and emotional well-being early on helps provide a strong foundation for challenges they may face later in life.

About the Alliance

The Alliance collaborates with leading nonprofits to find evidence-based solutions to the youth mental health crisis. We scale promising solutions, advance innovative initiatives, and drive research and awareness.

●     Meeting young people where they are: Parents, caregivers and educators are on the front lines as they face mental health challenges with their kids, and they need our support. Through our work with Alliance members, we bring resources and education to these groups and help build systems at schools and colleges, early education centers and physician’s offices enabling them to better address the needs of youth and drive positive change. To date, our work has benefitted over 37 million children, caregivers and educators globally.  

●     Enormous needs and exciting innovation: There are tremendous needs in underserved communities and among service providers across the U.S. That much is clear from the more than 2,000 Innovation Award applications we received over the past three years. We are delighted to see the numerous great ideas that are being pursued, and we’re pleased to play a role in supporting transformative solutions. The groups we have supported so far serve children and youth in local communities, schools and barber shops, on sports teams, in hospitals and through digital platforms. In addition to the grants we have provided to 15 early-stage nonprofits, this year we launched a Leadership Learning Series to help more mental-health focused charities build capacity for greater impact.

●     Increased stressors for kids and families: We are all learning more every day about the mental health crisis and its far-reaching repercussions. The pandemic has affected children in many ways, as have increased screen time and interactive digital environments. Parents are affected by their children’s mental health and increased internet usage in families. It is crucial to have additional research and ongoing dialogue to understand emerging trends, discuss what is and isn’t working, and provide actionable insights for children and their trusted adults. 

Collaboration Is Key

The youth mental health crisis is too large for any individual or group to tackle alone. Real and meaningful change will come about in this space only through collaboration. The Alliance’s work is rooted in that principle, and we will continue in partnership to address systemic and emerging issues and bring about change.

Our commitment is just one piece of many that need to come together to create significant change. As the Alliance enters its next chapter, we need more urgent action across the public, private and nonprofit sectors to help address the immense need.

I encourage others to join the effort to reduce the substantial funding gap in this space—and to advocate for the mental well-being of countless children and youth. Timely intentional effort can help to create a healthier world for our children and young adults, today and into the future. 

Interested in the Alliance for Children's Mental Health?