Mental Health Services for Black Girls
Creating a policy agenda to expand culturally-competent and gender-responsive mental health services for Black girls and other youth of color
The National Black Women’s Justice Institute partnered with The Children’s Partnership to create The Hope, Healing and Health Collective (H3 Collective). The H3 Collective was a youth-led collaborative (with support and thought partnership from adult allies within policy, research, direct service and government) of 15 youth leaders and organizations from across the country that developed a policy agenda to expand the availability and accessibility of culturally-competent and gender-responsive mental health and well-being services to Black girls and other youth of color who are experiencing historic, crisis-level rates of mental health needs and suicide risk.
We need mental health services that recognize the specific experiences of Black girls and provide approaches that are both culturally specific and gender affirming. The H3 Collective is a model to demonstrate what meaningful mental health services for Black girls and other girls of color could look like.
Why focus on specific mental health needs of Black girls?
Approximately 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14. And because youth engage with services differently than adults do, we must address youth mental health needs differently than how we address adult mental health. Additionally, there is a lack of non-white mental health providers and providers who can provide culturally competent mental health services to Black girls—only 4 percent of psychologists in the United States are Black and overall, racial and ethnic minorities have less access to mental health services than whites.
There are a number of factors that impact the mental health of Black girls. In addition to challenges that youth in general may face, many Black girls also have to contend with racism, adultifcation, sexual harassment, and violence.
When mental health needs go unaddressed, it can lead to terrible outcomes: Mental health continues to decline, and the impact of not addressing adolescent mental health issues last long into adulthood. Unaddressed mental health issues can begin to manifest physically and make it difficult to cope with parts of daily life. This can lead to poor performance in school, job loss, homelessness, and more, and it can make people more vulnerable to victimization. All of this may worsen a person’s mental health, creating a continuous negative cycle. Unaddressed mental health and trauma are also pathways to criminalization and confinement for Black girls. This is why it's imperative that we do this work and focus specifically on addressing mental health needs early, especially for Black girls.