Youth-Led Mental Health Council Aims to Promote Healing Amid Pandemic & Racial Unrest
This week, The Children’s Partnership (TCP) and the National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI) announced the 15 youth leaders and organizations who will be awarded an opportunity to inform policy solutions that better serve the mental health of BIPOC young people and communities.
With support from Pivotal Ventures, a Melinda French Gates company focused on social progress, the members of the new youth policy council are committed to building a movement toward long-term mental health reform to ensure historically marginalized communities have access to appropriate and effective prevention and early intervention services for young people’s healing and well-being. Over $300,000 will be disbursed to the participating youth leaders and collaborating grassroots organizations selected from applicants across the country with expertise in community-based and trauma-informed care, healing-centered engagements and youth leadership.
The policy council, named The Hope, Healing and Health Collective (H3 Collective), is a youth-led collaborative, with support and thought partnership from adult allies within policy, research, direct service and government, that will develop a policy agenda to build the capacity of youth-serving systems to provide effective and compassionate care to young people and their communities. Led by TCP, in partnership with NBWJI, the aim of the collective is to expand the availability and accessibility of culturally-competent and gender-responsive mental health and well-being services to youth of color, particularly Black girls, Indigenous youth and Latina girls.
“Trauma compounds trauma,” said The Children’s Partnership President, Mayra E. Alvarez. “Stressors from the last year and a half have only added to what were already alarming trends in mental health, especially for children and young people who hold several marginalized identities.”
“We need BIPOC youth at the decision-making table,” said NBWJI Executive Director Sydney McKinney. “Creating space for youth of color, especially girls, to draw on their experiences and perspectives and to have a real voice in the policy-making process is essential to ensure that youth-focused mental health services actually work for BIPOC youth.”
“We transform pain into power,” said Kristian Mathews, a high school junior who serves as the Chief Community Organizer for Detroit Heals Detroit, an H3 Collective awardee. “With a goal to combat trauma, we use healing-centered engagement to share our greatest vulnerabilities with the rest of the world while simultaneously working to dismantle oppressive systems for marginalized Detroit youth.”
Black and Latina girls were nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide as Black and Latino boys, and the depression of each was less likely to be treated than white peers. Suicide rates for American Indian/ Alaska Native girls have risen by 60 percent in the last 15 years, the largest increase among any demographic group in the country. Alvarez continued, “The only way to prevent this heartbreak is to listen to and give real power to young people to make the decisions about their care, rights and healing.”
The 15 youth leaders and host organizations represent a diverse array of backgrounds and experiences, such as organizations that use photography or healing circles as forms of youth engagement and advocacy skill development, and from regions across the United States, from Los Angeles to New Mexico, Atlanta and New York. Participants will meet in virtual community through December 31, 2021. A full list of awardees and more information on the H3 Collective is available here.
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ABOUT THE CHILDREN’S PARTNERSHIP
The Children’s Partnership (TCP) is a California-based children’s advocacy organization committed to improving the lives of marginalized children where they live, learn, and play with breakthrough solutions via research, policy and community engagement. Since 1993, TCP has been a leading voice for children and a critical resource for communities across California and the nation, working every day to champion policies that provide all children with the resources and opportunities they need to thrive. For more information, visit www.childrenspartnership.org.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL BLACK WOMEN’S JUSTICE INSTITUTE
The National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI) aims to eliminate racial and gender disparities in the U.S. criminal legal system that are responsible for its disproportionate impact on Black women, girls, and gender nonconforming people. NBWJI engages in rigorous research and capacity building in order to transform the current system and promote policy change that centers and uplifts the voices and experiences of Black women, girls, and gender nonconforming people who have been impacted by the criminal legal system. NBWJI seeks to dismantle the punitive paradigm driving the U.S. criminal legal system and build, in its place, pathways to healing and opportunity. At NBWJI, we envision a society where healing—not punishment—is upheld as justice. For more information, visit www.nbwji.org.