Editor’s Note: James Gorman is chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
Not long ago, one of my very talented colleagues discussed the 18th anniversary of the suicide of her younger brother. He was 25. “While I will always wonder if there is something more I could have done to prevent his death, there is much that can be done now to prevent the deaths of others like him,” she wrote.
She’s absolutely right. More can be done to help people like him, and now is the time to act as the next generation — one that includes my own children, as well as thousands of bright and motivated young people — faces a growing crisis.
According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among Americans ages 10 to 24 jumped 56% between 2007 and 2017. In 2017, suicide was listed as the second leading cause of death in young people ages 10 to 34.
Depression among adolescents ages 12 to 17 also shot up 52% from 2005 to 2017, according to a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. And a 2015 Child Mind Institute study found that an estimated 17.1 million young people in the United States alone have or have had a diagnosable mental illness. Yet nearly two-thirds of US children with a mental health disorder do not receive help.
While the topic of investing in mental health awareness and care comes up every time a tragedy is reported in the media, we cannot seem to fully get beyond simply talking about it. Public sector spending for mental health care is still inadequate to meet the growing need. And the availability of trained caregivers has not kept pace with the surge in prevalence. As of 2018, for instance, there were just under 10,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists nationwide, far less than the estimated 12,624 needed to meet demand.
More Perspectives on Management & Leadership
These are some of the critical reasons the private sector should pledge to support the mental health of today’s children and tomorrow’s workforce. Corporations must collaborate with each other and the organizations that are making an impact in the field to identify and fund groundbreaking initiatives and research and bring proven mental health solutions to scale. This will help provide children and their families with access to early detection and treatment. Using its resources and reach, the private sector could help raise awareness, reduce stigma and invest in solutions to reverse the growing trend of mental health challenges in young people — the very people who will lead the businesses of the future.
That’s why Morgan Stanley recently launched the Alliance for Children’s Mental Health. The Alliance combines the resources and reach of Morgan Stanley with the knowledge and experience of distinguished nonprofit partner organizations to help deliver positive, tangible impact on the critical challenges of stress, anxiety and depression in children and young people. Focusing on transition periods in youth (when these issues tend to spike), the Alliance will work to expand the impact its partner organizations have around the world, growing programs and spearheading innovations.
The private sector has both the opportunity and the obligation to do its part in helping ensure young people get the treatment they need and deserve. As an added incentive: Depression and anxiety costs the global economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity, according to the World Health Organization. For every dollar invested in mental disorder treatment, there is a return of $4 due to improved health and productivity. Working strategically together, with nonprofit partners across the mental health sphere that are dedicated to finding solutions, we can not only improve young people’s prospects for happy and productive lives, but help bring about a brighter future for all.