Marc Benioff's donation to hospital will increase children's mental health services in the East Bay

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- One in five kids under the age of 18 suffers from some type of mental illness. Doctors say we are at a point where more services are needed. That's why on Tuesday Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, announced a $15-million gift to address this shortage in care.

UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland is the beneficiary of the $15-million gift. With the money, the number of psychiatrists will triple, they will train more doctors in the field of child psychiatry, which will then allow the hospital to offer more psychiatric visits per year for children in the East Bay.

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Dr. Bryan King of UCSF says the number of providers has not kept up with the demand for mental health care.

"We're at a place where at least 20-percent of children and adolescents will experience a mental illness in a given year," explained Dr. King.

Anxiety, isolation, depression, and stress are some of the contributing factors.

"We're all on a treadmill now in a way, that probably wasn't true some years ago," added Dr. King who is the vice president for child behavioral health services at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals.

Edgewood Center for Children and Families provides mental health services for kids and young adults in four Bay Area counties.

In a single year, the number of referrals increased from 9,000 to 11,000.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2000 to 2016 the U.S. suicide rate for girls 15 to 24 years of age rose by 80-percent, while boys saw a 20-percent increase.

Given what we know, parents today are being told to ask their kids some hard questions.

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"How are you doing? How are you feeling? Have you ever thought of hurting yourself, do you feel like killing yourself? These are hard questions for any parent or professional to ask child, but it is really our job," said Lynn Dolce, Edgewood's CEO.

The medical community believes that by having that kind of conversation, will help break the stigma associated with mental illness.
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