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 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 ColorDownload Chart
Percentage that Experienced Moderate to Severe DepressionDownload Chart
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 ColorDownload Chart
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 TraumaDownload Chart
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 ImpactDownload Chart
Youth Identified Knowing Someone Who Had COVID
Youth Lost Someone They Care About to COVID
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.
report they have at least one person they feel loves them
report they have at least one person they feel loves and trusts them
report they are hopeful about the future
report they have at least one person they feel they can trust
Key Takeaways from our Inaugural Report
It is imperative that The AAKOMA Project replicates and scales this survey in coming years in the form of an annual report.
This report speaks to the dire need to ask Youth and Young Adults of Color how they are and what supports they need.
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.
We cannot ignore the impacts of racial trauma on the mental health of Youth and Young Adults of Color.