With an urgent and escalating need for more mental health services for young people across Massachusetts, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, city health officials and the Boston Public Schools announced on Wednesday $21 million in funding to boost the city’s response.

“I think we're all aware that our youth are in crisis,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, commissioner of public health and executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. “They need our help more than ever before. … An increasing number of our high school students have considered and even planned suicide. And among our high school students, our young girls and our LGBTQ youth have reported higher rates of suicidal thoughts than other students.”

The Boston Public Health Commission is receiving the bulk of the money, a total of $15.3 million. That money will fund a range of programming in schools and their communities, much of which will be focused on trauma and address the needs of communities of color. Boston Public Schools will get $5.8 million for a program in partnership with UMass Boston, Boston University and Brown University.

In total, officials said the programs being funded will directly serve more than 50,000 students in 21 schools over the course of five years, and also support more than 600 people pursuing careers in behavioral health, and train another thousand people to better serve Boston's youth and families.

“This project will address the growing need for mental health resources among our minoritized and marginalized youth,” said UMass Boston Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, “particularly addressing the existential matter of shortage of mental health providers with identities that reflect the lived experiences, the beauty, the strength that our students bring to our classrooms, to our city. Day in and day out. We share the commission's goal to advance racial justice and health equity. Racism is the other mental health crisis in our country.”

The funding announcement coincides with a study from the health commission released on Wednesday, which found that mental health difficulties are getting significantly worse in Boston for young people of color, young women and LGBTQ+ youth. It also found that more than 40% of BPS students report persistent feelings of sadness — a 13% increase since 2015. And it found that less than half of students who were having mental health difficulties received help from peers, family members or professionals.

Eighth grader Leihla Martinez said she witnesses this exact problem.

“Every day, students come to school going through something that they don't talk about,” she said at an official announcement of the funding at her school, Dorchester’s Joseph Lee K-8 school. “Sometimes they don't have anyone to talk to, and other times they don't feel safe to share with certain adults, so they just bottle it up inside. This can make us feel anger, anger, anxiety, and can lead to depression.”

One program BPHC will fund is led by Boston’s Franciscan Children’s Hospital, which is receiving $2.5 million to expand the mental health services it provides at BPS schools over three years, from 12 sites to 22 sites

The $21 million in funding comes from the federal government, including the American Rescue Plan Act, the 2020 pandemic relief bill, and the $5.3 million going to Boston Public Schools is from the Department of Education.

Mayor Wu said it was “a little bit unusual of how Boston has used our federal recovery dollars; in a lot of cities around the country, it was used to plug holes or fill gaps temporarily.”

‘We've really been trying … to show that more is possible with those dollars — not just try our best to put Band-Aids on situations, but build new infrastructure,” Wu added. “And the announcement today really shows that Boston sees critical infrastructure, not just as roads and bridges and or even things that you can touch and see, but as people, as mental health, as the workforce that cares for those who are in need of services.”

Leihla said she received services at her school, meeting with a social worker.

“Since working with Miss Rose, I have been a better person mentally,” she said. “I'm better at focusing on school; I am better at dealing with frustration and I'm more patient with others. Students also always need someone to talk to them, even if it's just a check up, because for me, a little bit goes a long way.”