Submitted by dsong on
AmeriCorps Staff

The US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called for a swift and comprehensive response to the youth mental health crisis. One in three high school students, and half of female students, have reported persistent feelings of hopelessness, with 122 million Americans living in communities that lack adequate mental health services.

The nation’s current mental health crisis was exacerbated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unprecedented social isolation, job loss, widespread sickness, persistent food instability, and unfathomable grief all played a significant role in increasing mental health needs. For youth, disruptions in routines and relationships led to increased social isolation, anxiety, and learning loss, which further accentuates the mental health crisis among young adults. 

On May 16, 2024, AmeriCorps joins the nation to recognize Mental Health Action Day, a nationwide effort to drive society from mental health awareness to mental health action. On this day, AmeriCorps aims to motivate Americans to prioritize mental health as much as their physical health, encourage the public to discuss mental health more openly, and announce AmeriCorps’ action – the launch of Youth Mental Health Corps

Transforming Awareness to Action 

For the past 30 years, AmeriCorps has been committed to eliminating barriers and prioritizing improving mental health support for children and young people across the country. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, AmeriCorps programs have leveraged national service to help schools safely reopen and address students’ mental health needs, using evidence-based interventions that respond to students’ social, emotional, and academic needs—such as the ability to collaborate with others or persist through difficult challenges.

With partners like the US Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AmeriCorps is answering the Biden-Harris administration’s call to support our youth’s mental health by addressing the determinants of behavioral health, investing in community services, and fostering a culture and environment that creates supportive learning environments. AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers serve at nearly 9,500 K-12 schools as tutors, mentors, and in other key roles to help develop students’ educational and social development and provide support to teachers. And, more than 4,0000 members have served in Public Health AmeriCorps, providing vital public health services while also getting the experience and training they need to pursue a career in public health.

Youth Help Peers Navigate Mental Health Challenges

AmeriCorps understands that when systems act to promote well-being early, youth reap the mental and emotional benefits for years to come. This Mental Health Action Day, AmeriCorps builds upon Public Health AmeriCorps by joining the Schultz Family Foundation and Pinterest to launch Youth Mental Health Corps – an innovative, public-private collaboration to support the growing needs of young people while creating career pathways to address the national shortage of mental health professionals. 

Hundreds of AmeriCorps members ages 18-24 will serve in the Youth Mental Health Corps across eleven initial states to serve as navigators in middle and high schools and community-based organizations, helping them kickstart their careers. Young adults serving as AmeriCorps members in YMHC will gain hands-on experience, develop skills, receive an education award, and obtain a credential while filling critical gaps in the mental health workforce and care delivery system through three service pathways: 

  • School-based mental health navigator. AmeriCorps members will serve in schools, out-of-school-time programs, and community-based organizations with limited access to mental health services while earning credentials and/or credits toward a higher education program.
  • Peer support/recovery navigator. Open to members who have lived experience with mental health challenges and/or substance abuse disorder, these AmeriCorps members will support peers and near-peers along their recovery journey while getting the training and experience required to earn a peer support/recovery specialist state certification.
  • Community mental health navigator. AmeriCorps members will have the opportunity to serve youth and young adults in communities, expand access to mental health resources, and receive the training, support, and experience needed to earn a state-based community health worker certification. 

National Service is a Movement to Bring Out the Best of America 

AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers have been committed to service, recruiting others to serve, and creating service experiences that transform lives. Through their dedication to addressing our nation’s immediate challenges like mental health, they’ve demonstrated the strength of the national service movement in our country and continuously proven that AmeriCorps is not just a moment in our history but a movement to bring out the best of America. 

This Mental Health Action Day and throughout Mental Health Awareness Month, serve to help advance more equitable health outcomes for our communities.

Learn more about the Youth Mental Health Corps at