Our Mission

AAKOMA believes that to meet the mental health needs of Youth of Color, we need to operate at three levels – raising consciousness among individuals, providing accessible tools for ongoing management, and changing systems to receive youth and provide better care.

Raising Consciousness

Ensure that young people of color are aware of the importance of their mental health and that young people and caregivers have the ability to share, support, and understand the young people’s experience with mental health.

Empowering People

Provide tools and resources for young people of color and their caregivers to manage their own wellbeing and mental health in a timely, accessible, and approachable way and when needed, connect to more formal and/or clinical service offerings for support.

Changing Systems

Build a set of systems and services that are equipped to receive Youth of Color and their caregivers and address their unique needs which will require a qualified workforce, evidence-based set of services and interventions, and an accessible set of supportive set of resources.


A growing number of Youth of Color and their communities have consciousness and understanding of the importance of their mental health. At The AAKOMA Project, we recognize that Youth of Color and their communities must be better equipped to manage their own mental health and/or support youth with their mental health needs. Therefore, The AAKOMA Project seeks to change systems and ensure that they are built to respond to the needs of Youth of Color and their communities through building a sufficient research and evidence base that informs policy and practice.

Our theory of change indicates that the most effective and sustainable approaches to improved mental health begin with understanding the needs to the people we seek to serve, collaborating with them to develop solutions, then implementing solutions via a collaborative, community engaged model. The AAKOMA Project stands apart given our deep bench of knowledge gained over 20 years in traditional academic medicine using clinical trials methodology enhanced by an equal number of years honing a cultural relevant, strategic focus on full engagement and collaboration with communities of color. Our results speak for themselves:

Historically: The primary goal of our initial research was to learn more about what African Americans think about depression, participation in research, and obtaining depression treatment from mental health professionals.

  • Breland-Noble, A.M. & Weller, B. (2012). Examining African American Adolescent Depression in a Community Sample: The Impact of Parent/Child Agreement. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 21(5), 869-876. doi: 10.1007/s10826-011-9547-z
  • Breland-Noble, A.M. (2012). Community And Treatment Engagement For Depressed African American Youth: The AAKOMA FLOA pilot. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings. 19, (1), 41-48.
  • Breland-Noble, A.M., Burriss, A., Bell, C.C. & The AAKOMA Project Adult Advisory Board (2011). “Mama just won’t accept this”: Adult Perspectives on Engaging Depressed African American Teens in Clinical Research and Treatment. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings.
  • Breland-Noble, A. M., Burriss, A., & Poole, H. K. (2010). Engaging depressed African American adolescents in treatment: Lessons from The AAKOMA Project. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 66(8), 868-879.

Presently: In a pilot test of our depression treatment engagement intervention

  • 100% of the youth/families who took our intervention attended their 1st session of treatment with a provider compared with 75% of youth who were in the delayed control condition of our study.
  • For the 1st 8 months of our 1 year pilot study, our “show rate” (the percentage of people who showed up for appointments with our study team) was 88% (far above average of 30-40% for major studies of mental health interventions with diverse samples of youth).

Major Study recruitment compared with AAKOMA:

  • TADS: 13 sites + 3 year enrollment period = 423 successful phone screens, 59 AA youth enrolled in 36 months
  • Teen Depression Awareness Project: 11 sites in Washington, DC and Los Angeles, CA + 14 month enrollment period = 56 AA youth enrolled in 14 months
  • AAKOMA Pilot: 1 site + 9 month enrollment period = 23 successful phone screens, 17 AA youth enrolled 74% Black youth enrollment rate in 9 months