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Sisterhood Agenda has been promoting Black youth mental health for over twenty-five years. Starting with small groups of Black girls ages 12-17, we created and implemented A Journey Toward Womanhood, plus SisterCamp, Sister Circles, and other girl power programs.
Disproportionately impacted by trauma and abuse, disease, economic handicaps, and racial discrimination, life as a Black girl is not usually easy.
Health disparities are real. As minor children, girls, particularly Black girls, represent a vulnerable population.
Sisterhood Agenda services also include adult women, with a priority on young adults.
Our vast experience has taught us that young adult women are a vulnerable population, too.
There is a current funding opportunity regarding Policies Promoting Black Youth Mental Health.
According to Policies Promoting Black Youth Mental Health:
For Black populations overall, suicide is the top 15 leading cause of death, with the rate of suicide steadily increasing each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2020). Among Black children and adolescents, the rate of suicide is the highest among all children ages 5-11 (Congressional Black Caucus, 2019). Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARSTM) shows that for two decades (1999– 2019), suicide has been the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10-17 years of age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2020). According to a 2020 HHS Report to Congress on African American Youth Suicide, “suicide has now become the second leading cause of death among Black youth aged 10-14, and the third leading cause of death of Black adolescents aged 15-19.” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020) This is of significance as Black populations have traditionally lower rates of suicide than other racial and ethnic groups (Rose, McDonald, Von March, Witherspoon, & Lambert, 2019).
Mental health conditions
Recent studies point to the disabling impact of diagnosable disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse on the overall mental health status of Black youth.
Data from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), noted that Black and African American youth 12-17 years of age experienced an increase in major depressive episodes from 9% to 10.3% between 2015 and 2018 (SAMHSA, 2020) and increasing to 11.4% in 2019 (SAMHSA, 2019) (SAMHSA, 2020). NSDUH findings also indicated significant increases in substance use disorder, serious mental illness (SMI) among all ages of Black and African American people between 2008 and 2018, and major gaps in treatment.
Experts have noted that multiple mental health disorder risk factors, such as poverty, food insecurity, health care disparities, and exposure to violence, disproportionately affect Black children (Reed & Adams, 2020). Additionally, experts have asserted systemic, intergenerational, and environmental criminal justice, race, and social-relational factors, as predisposing risks to disparate Black youth mental health outcomes (Bell, 2016) (Talley, et al., 2021) (Talley, et al., 2021) (Assari, Boyce, Bazargan, & Caldwell, 2021). These risk factors and other stressors also have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Young people are in crisis.
Yet, we have been and still continue to battle the crisis of mental health and the stigma that is often associated with it-the causes, symptoms, and treatment are rarely discussed among colleagues, families, and friends.
Mental health is a big part of health, in general. Sometimes, we tend to forget that it is not a separate part of life. Holistic, it is integrated into all aspects of our existence and everyday lives. Self-love and self-care are part of your physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Getting help for mental health issues is a demonstration of power and strength, not weakness or deficiency.
The solutions to staying safe and balanced in positive mental health must be as multi-pronged, comprehensive, pervasive, and effective as the issues themselves.
We lead this movement at this moment for ourselves and also for everyone else. Unified in our efforts with no hidden agendas or barriers, helping ourselves means that we take charge and empower ourselves the best way that we know how.
Using our tools, with Culture and Spirit, can uplift us.
Photo credit: 123rf