State of Mental Health for Youth and Young Adults of Color 2022

Presented by The Project

At The AAKOMA Project we recognize that research centered on the mental health of Youth and Young Adults of Color is largely absent, which makes it almost impossible to provide scientifically grounded, culturally relevant, and effective interventions. The purpose of our study was to lay foundational groundwork for a critical analysis of the mental health needs and experiences of intersectional Youth and Young Adults of Color because this population of youth is too often overlooked.

Through this first of its kind study, we sought to amplify the mental health experiences and needs of Youth and Young Adults of Color. We examined the impacts of COVID-19 and racial justice; two influences on current youth mental health that helped illuminate our findings under a timely lens. The impetus for this study dated to my early days in academia over 20 years ago; I sought datasets and information that addressed the needs of our population and found it difficult to identify comprehensive data.

I'd like to thank our sponsors, partners and donors for their support in this project. And last but definitely not least, I'd like to thank the young participants who were brave enough to help us capture the mental health experiences and needs of their generation.

Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble

Founder of The AAKOMA Project

What did we find?


State of Anxiety

Anxiety Disorders are mental health disorders characterized by feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with one’s daily activities. Examples of anxiety disorders include panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms include stress that’s out of proportion to the impact of the event, inability to set aside a worry, and restlessness.

Percentage that Experienced Mild to Severe Anxiety

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Anxiety & Gender Identity: Youth with Moderate to Severe Anxiety

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KEY FINDINGS:
What were the most common symptoms of anxiety in different groups?

For all Youth and Young Adults of Color in our sample, feeling anxious, worried or nervous was the most common symptom of anxiety but each group showed slightly different additional signs of anxiety as follows:

Black youth: Struggling with decision-making and worrying about bad things happening.

Latino/e youth: Struggling with decision-making.

Asian American Pacific Islander and Native American youth: Avoiding situations they worried about.

State of Depression

Depressive illnesses are mental health disorders characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life. Possible causes include a combination of biological, psychological, and social sources of distress and can include social determinants of health like exposure to racism and discrimination. The persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that characterizes depressive illnesses can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms.

Depression Severity in Youth and Young Adults of Color

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Percentage that Experienced Moderate to Severe Depression

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KEY FINDING:
The most common symptoms of depression among all youth were feeling tired or having little energy.
53.3% of Black youth experienced moderate to severe depressive symptoms.

Depression Symptoms Reported by Youth and Young Adults of Color

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KEY FINDINGS:

At least half of Youth and Young Adults of Color in this sample reported experiencing moderate to severe depression or anxiety. Some Youth and Young Adults of Color had significantly higher depression and anxiety scores.

Suicide & Self-Harm

26.8% of all youth reported suicidal ideation in the past year. No differences across racial groups

Females are more likely to report suicidal ideation

18% of youth made at least one suicide attempt

Black youth significantly more likely to make a suicide attempt compared to Latino/e, AAPI and Native American youth.

Have you ever cut yourself or self-harmed in some way?

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KEY FINDINGS:

22.4% of Youth and Young Adults of Color reported engaging in non-suicidal self injury in the past year.

Who seeks treatment?

Psychosocial barriers, such as stigmatized attitudes toward depression treatment, reliance on non-clinical faith-based supports and concerns about the lack of cultural relevance of treatment often play a role in the lack of treatment utilization.

Treatment Use and Engagement

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KEY FINDINGS:

30% reported needing treatment but hadn't received it

35% of all Youth and Young Adults of Color reported taking medication for mental health. Multiracial youth are significantly more likely to do so.

18% agree that they would have thought less of someone for seeking mental health treatment

Exposure to Racial Trauma

Trauma is defined as our responses to a distressing or disturbing event like military combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, sexual assault or prolonged encounters with racism and discrimination. Therefore, trauma exposure is the act of being confronted with a stressing and disturbing event.

How often have you experienced racial trauma?

Experience of Racial Trauma

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18.4% of youth reported exposure to racial trauma often or very often in their lifetime

Black

20.1

Latino/e

18.5

AAPI

16.0

Native American

18.8

Multiracial

18.4

8.7% of youth reported exposure to racial trauma often or very often in the past year from teachers or employers

Black

7.9

Latino/e

6.1

AAPI

7.7

Native American

10.8

Multiracial

12.1

11.3% of youth reported exposure to racial trauma often or very often in the past year from peers or friends

Black

13.3

Latino/e

10.7

AAPI

10.5

Native American

10.1

Multiracial

11.8

7.3% of youth reported exposure to racial trauma often or very often in the past year from parents or caregivers

Black

4.6

Latino/e

5.2

AAPI

6.3

Native American

10.1

Multiracial

11.4

13.2% of youth reported exposure to racial trauma often or very often in the past year from police

Black

17.6

Latino/e

8.8

AAPI

8.1

Native American

12.4

Multiracial

20.4

17.6% of youth reported exposure to racial trauma often or very often in the past year from watching/reading/exposure to the news. This is known as "vicarious trauma."

Black

21.8

Latino/e

18

AAPI

15.7

Native American

12.2

Multiracial

19.2
KEY FINDING:

42.1% of Youth and Young Adults of Color were exposed to at least one source of racial trauma

Impact of COVID on Youth and Young Adults of Color

The coronavirus pandemic affected our youth in ways that will shape generations to come. We examined this effect in Youth and Young Adults of Color by asking them:

Has someone you cared about had COVID?

COVID Impact

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Youth Identified Knowing Someone Who Had COVID

Black

77.1

Latino/e

77.5

AAPI

65.0

Native American

64.9

Multiracial

62.1

Youth Lost Someone They Care About to COVID

Black

21.7

Latino/e

24.9

AAPI

19.5

Native American

22.6

Multiracial

20.3
KEY FINDING:

22% of Youth and Young Adults of Color had someone they care about die because of COVID

Youth Support and Resilience

In addition to examining symptoms and signs for mental illness, we wanted to also examine where our sample was able to find support, trust and sources of hope. This is what we found.

77.9%

report they have at least one person they feel loves them

74.6%

report they have at least one person they feel loves and trusts them

61.1%

report they are hopeful about the future

77.0%

report they have at least one person they feel they can trust

Conclusion

Key Takeaways from our Inaugural Report

  1. It is imperative that The AAKOMA Project replicates and scales this survey in coming years in the form of an annual report.

  2. This report speaks to the dire need to ask Youth and Young Adults of Color how they are and what supports they need.

  3. This is a first-of-its-kind effort to do a deep dive into gaining a basic understanding of the mental health experiences, needs and supports of Youth and Young Adults of Color.

  4. We cannot ignore the impacts of racial trauma on the mental health of Youth and Young Adults of Color.

Acknowledgments

Thank you to our board of directors, sponsors, partners and donors for their support in this labor of love. And last, but definitely not least, we'd like to thank the young participants who bravely stepped forward to help us capture the mental health experiences and needs of their generation. We could not do this work without you.