Prevention is the best investment we can make in behavioral health and the time to make it is now.
Every day, across America, behavioral health problems in childhood and adoles-cence take a heavy toll on millions of lives. These problems cause deep, often long-term damage to young people, families, schools, and communities. They erode the social con-tract that one generation makes with another to equip its young people for a bright future. Behavioral health problems range widely from anxiety and depression to alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse; delinquent and vio-lent behavior; dropping out of school; and risky sexual activity and unwanted pregnancies. Behavioral health is defined so broadly because many of these problems share risk factors and solutions. Preventing one prob-lem often reduces another, or several others. For decades, the approach to behavioral health problems was to treat them one at a time and only after they were identified at a high and ongoing price. The cost of treat-ment services and lost productivity attribut-ed to depression, conduct disorder, and sub-stance abuse alone are estimated at $247 billion per year. Other losses in lifetimes of compromised potential, the fraying of our social fabric, and the diminishment of our nation’s future are incalculable.