World Mental Health Day
Every year, World Mental Health Day is celebrated on October 10 to raise awareness about mental health and to galvanize efforts to support those experiencing mental health issues. This year’s theme, 'Make mental health for all a global priority”, is especially significant as it echoes my heartfelt belief that we have a duty to serve ALL of our children, and if any portion of that population is suffering, it is imperative that we seek solutions and act quickly.
Statistics tell us that intersectional Youth of Color (Youth of Color including LGBTQIA+ and those with disabilities) are quite resilient. How do we know this? We can glean from the limited epidemiological data that exists for our youth across racial groups, that the prevalence (read: proportions) of youth with major mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety, are about the same. And, given the disproportionate exposure to discrimination, racism, authoritative brutality, school suspensions and expulsions, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia and intersectional gendered discrimination, etc., one would think that these youth should have much higher rates of mental illness (hence, we can assume there are protective factors inherent in our youth and their cultures).
However, we know from research (like The AAKOMA Project’s groundbreaking 2022 State of Mental Health of Youth of Color Report) that there are undoubtedly mental health disparities related to who gets care and the type of care received. For example, in our report, Black youth are disproportionately more likely to report having a plan for suicide while 42.1% of Youth of Color from our survey were exposed to at least one source of racial trauma. We also know that providers of color are a scarce resource across all disciplines of mental health providers representing less than 20% of all providers across the major disciplines. Ultimately, we know that even if we can get Youth of Color into care, they are: 1) less likely to be treated by a provider of their cultural background, 2) less likely to receive behavioral health care for an accurate diagnosis, and 3) less likely to encounter a provider with specific training and skill in #culturallycompetent care.
So, what can YOU do to make the mental health of intersectional Youth of Color a priority? There are a few things:
- We can pay attention: We want to remain aware that these issues negatively impact ALL youth.
- We can donate our resources: Give money to organizations doing the work; or give your human resource of time if you can’t give money; or give your social media chops to promote the work if you have neither time nor money.
- We can demand that (in policy, research and clinical care) #RepresentationMatters: When we read a policy brief, or see new, fancy “Evidence-Based Treatment”, we can look at the sample to determine if there is diversity adequately represented. If not, we can ask questions, or if so, we can promote as actual evidence.
- We can be fully present for the young people in our lives: This means:
- we can listen when they want to talk (using active listening);
- be aware of our own feelings and mental health; and
- model regular self-care and use and teach behavioral health management skills (e.g. take a beat instead of responding impulsively; practicing meditation or mindfulness, practicing healthy communication, using good sleep hygiene, etc.)
- We can seek out resources to help us learn more: Following @aakomaproject on IGis one place to start, but read what you can (like the full EMERGENCY TASK FORCE ON BLACK YOUTH SUICIDE & MENTAL HEALTH report here).