Culture and Talent

‘Large swaths are severely underfunded’: How financial services can improve children’s mental health

  • Depression, anxiety and additional mental health disorders have been increasingly affecting children and young adults since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • The Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health is tackling the mental health epidemic through investment and partnerships with mental health non-profits.
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‘Large swaths are severely underfunded’: How financial services can improve children’s mental health

The pandemic has created a mental health crisis around the world that has gravely impacted children and young adults. Financial services can be a major source of funding relief for vulnerable children at risk of falling through the cracks of an overburdened health care system. 

Despite increasing rates of mental illness, there remains a tremendous shortage in mental health investment. According to data from Candid, developed by the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, mental health accounted for only 1.3 percent of overall foundation investments from 2015 to 2018 despite affecting around 20 percent of Americans.

Depression and anxiety among children can often go undetected especially among those who live in marginalized communities. According to the CDC, around 75 percent of young adults suffer from a mental health or drug related problem and one in four have struggled with suicidal ideation since the onset of the pandemic. Around two-thirds of young people suffering with mental illness do not receive help.

“Less structure and fewer activities to engage in are huge factors in contributing to the struggles kids and teens are facing right now,” said clinical psychologist Jaime Marrus. “These include lack of motivation, anxiety, anhedonia or the loss of pleasure in previously enjoyable activities and a range of executive functioning challenges, such as difficulty concentrating, initiating tasks, and staying organized.”

The financial services industry can play a significant role in bridging existing mental health funding gaps. The Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health which was launched in February of last year is currently working towards financing emerging innovations in mental health treatment for children and young adults. 

“When we first started researching children’s mental health, we thought we might find an obvious white space for Morgan Stanley to support,” said David Stark, the chief medical officer at Morgan Stanley.

“Sadly, as we investigated further, we came to realize that large swaths of the field were at least partially overlooked and many were severely underfunded. We knew that for the Alliance to be a success we needed to bring together distinguished nonprofit organizations from around the world.”

The alliance is partnered with leading mental health non profit organizations such as the Child Mind Institute, The Jed Foundation and The Steve Fund. It focuses on capacity building, seed funding and leadership strategies to create awareness and improve children’s mental health outcomes. 

“The financial services industry can play a critical role to bridge the private and nonprofit sectors, drive catalytic philanthropy and deliver tangible results,” said Stark.

The private sector can also play an important advocacy role in raising awareness and understanding of children’s mental health issues among its stakeholders.

“Corporations have a unique ability to educate and activate their employees around issues and that can be a powerful tool in opening dialogue and identifying solutions beyond the company,” said Stark.

Investment and partnerships with mental health tech startups can be a significant route of corporate social responsibility among financial services companies. 2020 was a record year for mental health investments by the venture capital sector. 146 deals scored nearly $1.6 billion in venture capital investments up to December of 2020. 

Yesterday Bloomberg reported that private equity firm Blackstone Group is leading a $100 million funding round in mental health app Ginger which offers digital mental health services.

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