Our children need our help. Too many are falling through the cracks, especially as they have had to navigate through all the emotional complexities that the pandemic has created. Social isolation, a lack of human contact, remote schooling and other issues have added to the already growing mental health issues children confront today.
We face a crisis in which anxiety, depression and suicide among young people are serious social and public health concerns. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people age 10-24 in the United States.
To help meet this crisis, I’ve authored Senate Bill 21 to create a mental health awareness license plate for California. I am proud to team up with many partners, including Graham Wiseman, who founded the mental health support organization BeingWellCA after his 15-year-old son Colin’s suicide in 2013. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) California is another terrific partner using its vast outreach resources to build this movement toward offering much-needed mental health services to our children.
This new, specially designed license plate would increase awareness of children’s mental health and establish a new source of funding for schools to invest in mental health crisis prevention services.
Building community support
But it all begins with building support from our community to trigger production of these license plates. We need 7,500 people to sign a pledge that they will buy these license plates. You can register your intent to buy the license plate here: https://beingwellca.org/
After the bill has passed and we officially have 7,500 pre-orders, the Department of Motor Vehicles would then make them available for a fee. The sales revenue would go into a Mental Health Awareness Fund for mental health services in public schools.
These funds would develop and promote wellness center tool kits for school districts and sites in California to increase awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Standardized wellness centers would help deliver consistent services to all communities regardless of socio-economic factors.
In 2018, the California Healthy Kids Survey reported that in some school districts, more than 50 percent of the female juniors indicated that they had clinical depression. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased mental health issues among youth across the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control, mental health related emergency room visits by teenagers increased by 31 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.
Despite the alarming rates of suicide and self-harm by youth across the state, none of the 1,034 local education agencies reviewed by the state auditor employed the recommended number of mental health professionals. This bill adopts the state audit’s recommendations of increasing funding for mental health services by generating funds from the license plates.
Support without raising taxes
Over the last several decades, numerous license plates have been created to support programs such as breast cancer awareness and the California Arts Council. These license plates are an effective way for people to support initiatives without raising taxes or placing the burden on certain groups or individuals.
This license plate is one small step to bringing greater awareness to mental health and greater funding for services that help young Californians dealing with a mental illness. Please sign up to buy the license plate at beingwellca.org/.
Steve Glazer is the California State Senator representing the 7th Senate District. If you have questions about this or other topics, you can reach out to him at sd07.senate.ca.gov.