Virginia Mental Health, Statistics, Laws and Insight

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The home of many of our country’s founding fathers, Virginia is the site of numerous milestones in the nation’s history. It’s a beautiful state that boasts a variety of natural landscapes, from picturesque beaches to the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains.

However, Virginia—like the rest of the nation—faces challenges in the arena of teen mental health, in particular an alarming spike in suicide rates. And resources to address this adolescent mental health crisis, including mental health facilities in Virginia, are sorely lacking.

People on the frontlines helping youth in Virginia recognize the challenge. In an article in the Roanoke Times in April of 2019, Jacquelyn Santiago, COO of the Hartford nonprofit Compass Youth Collaborative, stated, “We can’t afford to let kids slip through the cracks.”

However, Virginia is not alone. Indeed, states nationwide are struggling with adolescent mental health challenges.

The Need For Adolescent Residential Treatment Centers in Virginia 

According to Mental Health America, Virginia ranks at number 23 among the 50 states in terms of youth mental health, including prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care. And the state ranks 45th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of access to quality mental health services in general.

Thus, youth who are battling depression in Virginia are among the least likely in the nation to receive treatment. In fact, only one out of four Virginia youth suffering from major depression receives treatment. Therefore, many young people need help, but their parents and guardians are unable to access mental health facilities in Virginia. As a result, many teens end up in a higher level of care, such as immediate suicide watch in hospitals due to the lack of access to mental health facilities in Virginia.

Talking about this ongoing crisis, William Andrew Hazel Jr., the current Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources, explains, “We have these problems all over healthcare … We have a system, in my mind, that is just set up to be ineffective.”

Virginia Mental Health Statistics for Adolescents

Statistics from the Office of Adolescent Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services show that Virginia mental health challenges reflect the difficulties that the nation as a whole is confronting. Like so many other states, Virginia is faced with a flood of teenagers needing help, and lacks treatment options to provide those services.

The Office of Adolescent Health reports the following 2017 Virginia mental health statistics, the most recent available:

  • In the year prior to the survey, 30 percent of high school students in Virginia reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row
  • 13 percent of high school students in Virginia reported having had one major depressive episode
  • 16 percent of high school students in Virginia seriously considered attempting suicide
  • Finally, 12 percent of high school students in Virginia said that they have attempted suicide one or more times.

The statistics above are compounded by the report of a 29 percent suicide rate increase among Virginia children and teens in 2016.

As a result, legislators are looking at Virginia mental health laws for prevention techniques and education initiatives related to mental health disorders and substance abuse. In addition, more teen mental health facilities in Virginia can help to make a difference.

NAMI Statement on Virginia Mental Health 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a nationwide grassroots group that educates, supports, and advocates for people affected by mental illness and their families. Examining the challenge that has plagued Virginia since the start of the 21st century, the experts at NAMI state:

“Children and adolescents with mental health disorders deserve better access to services and treatment. There are several approaches for addressing Virginia’s shortcoming to serving this important population. The first is early detection and adequate services that can ameliorate the long-term effects of mental health disorders.

Paired with early detection and assessment, teen residential treatment centers are most successful when they provide a comprehensive, holistic approach to mental health. Hence, such treatment addresses the root causes of the youth mental health crisis in Virginia.

Warning Signs of Teen Depression 

In Virginia, as in every US state, awareness and early assessment are key in addressing teen and young adult mental health. Parents and guardians need to understand the warning signs of teen depression, including the following symptoms:

  • Avoidance of social situations and loss of interest in favored activities
  • Exhaustion, constant fatigue, and generalized lack of energy
  • Sense of despair, sadness, and hopelessness, sometimes escalating into suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of motivation, resulting in feelings of guilt and/or failure
  • Unexplained aches and pains, headaches, stomach problems
  • Hard time concentrating (particularly for teens who used to be focused)
  • Feeling worthless, irritable, frustrated, or having an extreme case of low self-esteem
  • Disturbed sleep patterns (taking naps during the day, insomnia at night)
  • Changes in appetite and weight, including not eating on a regular basis or binge eating
  • Abusing alcohol and/or drugs as a form of self-medication to cope with the pain

Virginia Mental Health Options for Teens 

Like young people across the country, many teenagers in Virginia are living with mental health and co-occurring challenges. And they lack quality mental health treatment options. Hence, many Virginia parents don’t know where to turn for help due to sparse adolescent residential treatment centers in Virginia

In summary, Virginia teenagers need effective and compassionate treatment, so they can move on to live happy and fulfilled lives.


Mental Health America 

National Alliance on Mental Illness

 Office of Adolescent Health, US Department of Health and Human Services