9 Best Charities for Youth Mental Health (Complete 2024 List)

9 Best Charities for Youth Mental Health (Complete 2024 List)

By
Alycia O'Dell

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In the US each year, 1 in 6 youth under the age of 17 will experience a mental health disorder, and 75% of all lifetime mental health conditions present before the age of 24. Identifying symptoms and seeking treatment early can mitigate the negative impact of mental health conditions. However, the majority of the US faces a shortage of child and teen psychiatrists; only about 14 providers are available per 100,000 children. And, with suicide ranking as the 2nd leading cause of death for children ages 10-14, the situation is dire. So we had to ask: What are the best charities for youth mental health?

The best charities for youth mental health are the Child Mind Institute and Mental Health America. Charities like The Jed Foundation and Active Minds support youth mental health on high school and college campuses.

Whether you want to support research into the neuroscience behind mental health conditions, create permanent stability for a foster child, or raise awareness of teen suicide, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities for youth mental health are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to contribute.

Here’s What All the Best Charities for Youth Mental Health Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact, transparency ratings, and achievements.

They operate primarily throughout the US and Canada, but some support youth mental health internationally.

Some of these charities provide direct counseling services to teens in crisis, while others provide resources to guide families through their child’s mental health journey. 

Some of these charities provide direct counseling services to teens in crisis, while others provide resources to guide families through their child’s mental health journey. 

Yet they all share the same goal of improving youth mental health.

These Are the 9 Best Charities for Youth Mental Health in 2024

Below are our favorite charities for youth mental health (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

1

Child Mind Institute: Mental Health in the Developing Brain

Logo for Child Mind Institute
No Child Should Suffer: 60 second PSA

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Child Mind Institute holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Reaching struggling kids wherever they are.”

Child Mind Institute

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What they do:

The Child Mind Institute supports children with mental health and learning challenges through three key initiatives: care, education, and science. The Care initiative provides comprehensive evaluation and treatment for a diverse range of mental health and learning concerns. Under their Education initiative, projects like the Family Resource Center and School and Community Programs offer resources to families and communities to promote children’s mental health. Additionally, their Science initiative drives research into the causes of mental health and learning challenges in developing brains, guiding the adaptation of treatments based on scientific findings.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Child Mind Institute has treated more than 15,300 patients across 45 countries, over 75% of whom received services for free or at a reduced cost. Their Healthy Brain Network has included more than 6,880 children and the data has been cited in more than 1,289 research articles. Furthermore, each month, up to 2 million parents and caregivers rely on childmind.org for credible information regarding their child’s mental health.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the Child Mind Institute via their website. You can also register to participate in an event or support the charity by becoming a sponsor.

2

Mental Health America: Action Before Crisis

Logo for Mental Health America
Understanding our #B4Stage4 Philosophy

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Their transparency & ratings:

Mental Health America holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Crisis is not a starting point.”

Mental Health America

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What they do:

Mental Health America promotes youth mental health and mental illness prevention through advocacy, education, research, and integrative services. They offer a variety of resources to help youth navigate relevant mental health challenges. For example, their 2023 Back to School toolkit provides free resources, tips, tools, and information for parents, teachers, and students on protecting youth mental health from the detriments of social media. Furthermore, in 2014, they launched MHA Screening, a collection of confidential, clinically validated tests to help individuals make decisions about their mental health. 

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, Mental Health America has educated millions of people about mental illness impacting youth. For example, their MHA Screening tool has helped more than 21 million people gain insight into their mental health. Moreover, their 2022 campaign for Mental Health Month reached more than 100 million people.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to Mental Health America via their website. You can also get involved by joining their advocacy movement or creating your own fundraiser.

3

The Jed Foundation: Mental Health for Young Adults

Logo for the jed foundation
Who is The Jed Foundation?

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Jed Foundation holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Together, we’re changing and saving lives.

The Jed Foundation

⚒️

What they do:

The Jed Foundation supports youth mental health by equipping teens and young adults with the tools they need to help themselves and each other. For example, their Mental Health Resource Center provides comprehensive information about managing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as overcoming common challenges to mental health, like bullying and college planning. And, anyone can utilize their website for guidance on helping someone struggling with their mental health, including parents and teens. Moreover, they partner with high schools and colleges to integrate and strengthen mental health support programs through their JED Campus and JED High School initiatives.

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, The Jed Foundation has supported the mental health of millions of teens and young adults. For example, in 2022 alone, their campaigns and resources reached over 30.1 million people around the world. Furthermore, as of 2023, over 6.5 million students were enrolled in one of 646 schools implementing JED Campus or JED High School across the US.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to The Jed Foundation via their website. You can also get involved by volunteering or starting your own fundraiser.

4

Active Minds: Creating Hope out of Tragedy

Logo for Active Minds
Active Minds - Our Movement

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Active Minds holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Changing the culture around mental health.”

Active Minds

⚒️

What they do:

Active Minds supports youth mental health by working to change the way mental health is perceived, treated, and valued in the US. Their programs and services empower young adults to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and create communities of support. For example, Active Minds @Work offers simple and actionable tools for employees and employers to improve the culture of mental health in the workplace. In addition, their campus initiatives, including both k-12 and college campuses, utilize a peer-to-peer approach to destigmatizing mental health. Furthermore, they engage communities through awareness campaigns and resources.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, Active Minds has impacted more than 8 million students across more than 600 chapters on campuses nationwide. Each year, more than 15,000 students join Active Minds as advocates and educators on mental health. Their approach was validated in a 2018 study by the RAND Corporation which found that the organization had a positive and meaningful impact on campus mental health support.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to Active Minds via their website. You can also get involved by bringing Active Minds to your campus or community or creating your own fundraiser.

5

National Alliance on Mental Illness: Destigmatizing Mental Health

Logo for National Alliance on Mental Illness
Welcome To NAMI

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Their transparency & ratings:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“Changing the mental health conversation, together.”

National Alliance on Mental Illness

⚒️

What they do:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness improves the lives of children with mental illness and their families through advocacy, education, support, and public awareness. For example, they guide parents and caregivers in supporting youth mental health, such as identifying warning signs and finding appropriate treatment. As another example, they developed the Meet Little Monster Coloring and Activity Book, a creative outlet for children to explore and express their mental health. Also, they introduced NAMI Next Gen, a panel of young adults with diverse backgrounds and mental health experiences, to inform and support their youth mental health efforts. 

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has helped millions of Americans, including youth, impacted by mental illness through their network of over 600 affiliates and 49 state organizations across the US. For example, in 2022 alone, more than 11.1 million people utilized their educational resources, over 1 million people followed their social media, and their Meet Little Monster Coloring and Activity Book was downloaded more than 23,000 times.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the National Alliance on Mental Illness via their website. You can also contribute by registering to participate in NamiWalks Your Way or by volunteering to work on the HelpLine.

6

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation: Funding Mental Health Innovation

Logo for Brain and Behavior Research Foundation
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Overview

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

Funding cutting-edge research to find cures for mental illness.

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

⚒️

What they do:

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation supports those suffering from mental illness, including children, teens, and young adults, by funding innovative research in neuroscience. They award grants to researchers that have undergone intensive review by their Scientific Council, an advisory board made up of world-renowned scientists representing every major discipline in brain and behavior research. In addition to research on typically adult-onset mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder and addiction, their research also includes mental illnesses that are commonly present in youth, like ADHD and childhood anxiety.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation has awarded more than $450 million to fund more than 6,500 grants into mental illness, including those impacting youth. For example, they have awarded more than $20.7 million for autism research to date, contributing to breakthroughs like better understanding the impact of maternal diet on social behaviors, using CBD to reduce the occurrence of seizures, and distinguishing subtypes of autism.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation via their website. You can also get involved by sponsoring an event or creating your own fundraiser.

7

Girls Inc.: Fostering the Mental Health of Tomorrow’s Women

Logo for Girls Inc. 
This Is Why | Girls, Inc.

🔎

Their transparency & ratings:

Charity Navigator gives Girls Inc. a 4-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a Platinum Seal of Transparency. 

“Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.”

Girls Inc. 

⚒️

What they do:

Girls Inc. supports the mental health of girls and young women by helping them develop into healthy, educated, and independent adults through mentorship, creating pro-girl environments, and utilizing evidence-based programming. For example, they encourage mental wellness by creating environments in which girls feel safe discussing their issues with trained mentors, peers, and counselors. As another example, in 2023, they partnered with leading digital mental health provider Learn to Live to offer virtual mental health support for Girls Inc. participants. Furthermore, the organization advocates for policies that prioritize women’s mental health, like increasing access to mental health support in underserved communities

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What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, Girls Inc. has fostered the mental health of millions of girls across the US and Canada. They operate as a network of 75 affiliate organizations at over 1,200 sites in 350 cities across the US and Canada, through which they serve more than 130,000 girls each year. Furthermore, in 2021, they were awarded $10 million for their Project Accelerate, which aims to expand the power and influence of women in the workplace by 2030.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to Girls Inc. via their website. You can also contribute by registering to participate in events, shopping with partnered vendors, or donating a vehicle.

8

The Home for Little Wanderers: Better, Brighter Futures for Kids

Logo for The Home for Little Wanderers
The Home for Little Wanderers -  Turning Hurt into Hope

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Their transparency & ratings:

The Home for Little Wanderers holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“Programs that create permanent, positive change.”

The Home for Little Wanderers

⚒️

What they do:

The Home for Little Wanderers supports youth mental health through their community-based programs which are designed to ensure the emotional, social, educational, and physical well-being of youth up to the age of 26. For example, The Center for Early Childhood provides services for children suffering from challenges like attachment, anxiety, and depression. As another example, they provide in-home counseling, and family stabilization services through their Safe at Home program, while their Parent Support Program offers individual and group coaching for parents of children with mental health or behavioral issues. Furthermore, their Young Adult Programs help youth transitioning out of the foster care system by providing safe residences and psychological support.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

The Home For Little Wanderers is the oldest child welfare agency in the US. Each year, their team of over 1,000 providers-including psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals- serves more than 15,000 children and families. And, their advocacy efforts have given life to two new organizations; the Aging Out Youth Coalition and the Massachusetts Permanency Practice Alliance, to drive policy impacting vulnerable children. Moreover, they are the largest mental health provider for Boston Public Schools.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to The Home for Little Wanderers through their website. You can also support the organization by becoming a mentor or organizing an Essential Items Drive.

9

Action for Healthy Kids: Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds

Logo for Action for Healthy Kids
Take Action for Healthy Kids

Their impact and transparency ratings:

Action for Healthy Kids holds a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.

“All kids deserve to be healthy- in body and mind.” Action for Healthy Kids

Action for Healthy Kids

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What they do:

Action for Healthy Kids brings schools and families together and equips them with tools and resources to promote children’s physical and mental health. For example, their family-school partnership model brings together district leaders, school staff, and families to build healthier communities by focusing on three key program areas: food access and nutrition education (NourishED), physical activity (EnergizED), and social-emotional health and risk behavior prevention (ConnectED). The ConnectED program utilizes a comprehensive approach to promote resilience, social and emotional competence, and minimize risky behavior through experiential learning, evidenced-based curricula, and capacity-building.

🚀

What they’ve achieved:

Since their founding, the Action for Healthy Kids Network has positively impacted over 20 million children across more than 55,000 schools, with the help of over 150,000 volunteers. Since 2009, they have awarded $9.3 million in grants to schools and districts across the US to improve the health and well-being of students. For example, in 2023, they awarded almost $30 million across 264 small and rural communities to boost nutrition programs.

Ways to contribute:

You can donate to Action for Healthy Kids via their website. You can also get involved by participating in a learning event or fundraising.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for youth mental health. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarize yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing a charity’s progress in reaching its targets, the chances are they’re not making a substantial positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the websites of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. Charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to youth mental health—based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,

Illustration of a signature for Alycia

PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

The way we think about charity is dead wrong | Dan Pallotta

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