Ten Core Competencies for Youth and Young Adult Centered Mental Health Systems

Youth and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 are a unique population. They are situated at the intersection of childhood and adulthood—a critical developmental period—where their biological, physical, and psychological functioning changes rapidly. Many mental health systems are not constructed to serve youth and young adults specifically. In most cases, youth and young adults are required to receive services from child-serving systems until they are 18, and then from adult-serving systems, neither of which are developmentally appropriate to meet their needs. As a result, youth and young adults find themselves navigating the transition to adulthood in systems that were not built for them and whose policies, procedures, and practices are not designed to meet their needs.

The ten core competencies outlined in the report address existing gaps in youth and young-adult mental health systems, and they reflect values that translate into skills, attitudes, knowledge, and abilities of system participants. These core competencies are divided into two categories. Six are process-oriented: trauma- informed care, positive youth development, youth friendliness, authentic youth engagement, cultural responsiveness, and disability awareness. The other four are mental health care content: Integrating physical and behavioral health, promoting prevention, addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), and focusing on wellness.


The report, by Nia West BeyWhitney Bunts, and Kadesha Mitchell, concludes with some implementation strategies and next steps.