Center for Youth Mental Health
The Center for Youth Mental Health is a program of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences established through a grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. It envisions a mental health system that truly meets the developmental needs and goals of adolescents and young adults.
Mission & Vision
The mission of the Center for Youth Mental Health is to champion the change needed to close the gap in the mental health care system that neglects adolescents and young adults. The center does this by developing age-specific research and resources, collaborating with community providers to strengthen practices and transforming the system to ensure that adolescents and young adults have access to the targeted support and treatment they deserve.
The center envisions a reality where the mental health of adolescents and young adults is a priority in every community and includes relevant, accessible and age-appropriate services that consider every aspect of a young person’s life. To create a model of change, the center facilitates its work through four critical components of care: awareness, innovation, collaboration and advocacy.
Components of Care
The center educates policymakers, care providers, parents and community members about the urgency of the issue so that they’re more receptive to supporting the mission.
The center leverages research, including invaluable input from adolescents and young adults themselves, to develop new practices and resources that can better address their needs.
The center partners with mental health providers and community organizations to deliver resources and redesign programming to make them more accessible, engaging and relevant to the young people they serve.
The center supplements on-the-ground impact by influencing change from the top, encouraging local and state policymakers to advocate for more complete and continuous mental health care in the state of Texas.
About Transition-Age Research
Fifty percent of adults with a mental illness report their symptoms began in their early teens, and 75% report their symptoms began by age 24. Despite the increased risk of mental health concerns, older adolescents and young adults seek treatment at lower rates than any other age group.
This disruption in treatment engagement for individuals who are 16 to 25 years old, also called transition-age youth, is untimely. At this age, major mental illnesses first emerge and place those individuals at risk for high school dropout, unemployment, housing instability and criminal justice involvement. By not addressing treatment during this transitional life stage, emerging adults face a potential lifetime of struggle.
Mental Health Support for Young Adults
In a multifaceted partnership between Austin Community College and Dell Med, the Center for Youth Mental Health hosts the Amplify Center — a young adult-specific clinic designed to effectively intervene in mental health challenges that develop during adolescence and young adulthood.
Team Details & More
- Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., MSW; co-director
- Stephen Strakowski, M.D.; co-director
- Cory Morris, MSW; program manager, partnership and policy
- Laura Stevens Merola, M.Ed., LPC; assistant director of clinical excellence
- Da’Keona Jones, youth advisory lead
Emerging Voices Advocacy Council
The Center for Youth Mental Health, in its prioritized commitment to uplift the voices and lived experiences of young people, supports the Emerging Voices Advocacy Council, the center’s youth and young adult advisory effort.
The Emerging Voices Advocacy Council is youth and young-adult led to ensure effective empowerment and voice for young people who experience mental health needs. The council works toward ensuring its mission of solidifying the bridge between the community and effective mental health support. The council aims to challenge stigma, hold health professionals accountable and normalize emerging adults’ experiences to provide the support they need to succeed.
The Center for Youth Mental Health welcomes a limited number of interns for the fall, spring and summer semesters. If interested in applying or learning more about internship opportunities, please complete the interest form.
To reach the Center for Youth Mental Health directly, email the team or call 512-495-5312.
Make a Gift
Your gift helps close the gaps in transition-age youth. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of young adults and their families.