DALLAS – December 14, 2022 – UT Southwestern Medical Center is expanding an evidence-based mental health promotion and crisis prevention program for adolescents in Texas schools after receiving $11.5 million in state funding.
Madhukar Trivedi, MD
The Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM) program helps adolescents recognize and better understand the feelings and signs of depression and anxiety by sending trained facilitators to schools to lead sessions that include discussion and role play . The program has been rolled out to more than 30 North Texas schools, reaching more than 20,000 students since its launch in 2016. It is currently being rolled out across Texas in partnership with other health-related institutions as part of the Texas Child Mental Health Care. Consortium (TCMHCC).
Madhukar Trivedi, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Director of the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, and principal investigator for YAM at UT Southwestern, said research has shown that YAM leads to significantly lower depression and anxiety scores in college students, which lowers their risk of suicide.
“As a society, we tend to focus only on depression in a crisis. It’s like just focusing on the cancer when it gets to stage 4 when the results aren’t great,” said Dr. Trivedi, a researcher at UTSW’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute. “Thanks to the support of philanthropists and UT Southwestern, we have been able to reach tens of thousands of students so far in North Texas to help prevent suicide. With this new state funding, we will be able to achieve even more across the state. »
Dr. Trivedi explained that before puberty, the rate of depression – a well-known risk factor for suicide – is about the same for boys and girls. However, during puberty and soon after, rates of depression increase for both genders and eventually double for girls compared to boys, making this stage a particularly vulnerable time for suicidal ideation and attempts.
To help reduce the risk of suicide, Dr. Trivedi and his colleagues were brought to YAM, a European program that was shown to reduce suicide attempts and serious suicidal ideation by approximately 50% in a randomized controlled trial of 11,000 high school students published in 2015. Another study conducted by the team from the Dr. Trivedi showed a significant reduction in depression and anxiety in students who participated in a three-week internship YAM session in North Texas schools from 2017 to 2019.
Support for the expansion was provided by the Texas Legislature through the TCMHCC, established in 2019 and recently funded by American Rescue Plan Act federal funds earmarked for the state to address the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, including mental health issues. To date, more than 100 facilitators have been trained to YAM expanding health-related institutions including UT Dell Medical Center in Austin, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UT Medical Branch in Galveston, and UT Health Science Centers in Houston, San Antonio, and Tyler. Once trained, facilitators bring the program to schools in their communities.
By providing mental health education to all students in a high school or college class, rather than just responding to those deemed at risk or already in crisis, students learn to recognize symptoms of depression and anxiety in themselves and in their peers, Dr. Trivedi explained, reduce the risk of suicide before students are in danger.
“Mental health and well-being are critical to student success,” Dr. Trivedi said. “Rising rates of anxiety and depression, and loss of learning as a result of the pandemic, underscore that this is a pivotal time for our children. If we ignore this, we ignore it at our peril.
About UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes and includes 24 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 researchers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Full-time faculty of more than 2,900 are responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and committed to rapidly translating scientific research into new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 inpatients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits annually.
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