Learning how to reach today’s youth
Driven to improve care options, we recently completed extensive research — including one-on-one interviews — to better understand the lives, needs, desires and values of youth ages 13-26 experiencing behavioral health symptoms, conditions and treatment.
One of the key things we learned is that traditional intervention paths and solutions aren't working for this generation as well as we had hoped:
- Primary care physicians generally see young people too infrequently to identify mental health concerns, much less make referrals for them.
- Teachers, coaches and other community leaders may have more interactions and influence with youth but are not always privy to such concerns or professionally equipped to address them.
- Many youth say they're reluctant to confide in their parents and caregivers because they don’t want to burden them, fear they will overreact or don’t believe they can help.
- From a social determinants of health perspective, many youth don't have assured access to one or any of the above.
Our research also revealed that when youth do seek care, they expect those experiences to be tailored to their specific needs and wants. From their perspective, they know it when they see it, and are otherwise suspicious of those they believe lack authenticity and could be motivated by self-interest.
However, when youth say they feel seen, heard and validated, they are more likely to trust another person. But for most, this means keeping only a select, close circle of confidantes that rarely includes designated conventional caregivers.
Compounding these challenges, the world has changed. Youth no longer need to rely on their caregivers or nearby community resources for support and information. Instant access to a global network allows them to easily circumvent traditional pathways in search of validation, answers and support online. Unfortunately, a quick search may or may not take them to legitimate or credible sources of information critical to their health and well-being.
Developing new ways to make a difference
The good news is that innovative help is on the way. At Optum, we're leveraging the results of our in-depth research and analysis to design new pathways to connect with and engage children, adolescents and young adults through the people, places and things they interact with and trust.
By earning their trust and creating new support systems that meet them where they are, we can make the most difference in the right ways.
We value your role in helping children and their families access the behavioral health solutions they need. For a preview of the intervention opportunities our research revealed, download our report.