Today begins Mental Health Awareness Month. It began in the United States in 1949 and was established to help spread the word that mental health is just as important as physical health.
As we know, the health of our communities has been dramatically impacted by the global pandemic, especially the mental health of young women and children of color. Current data on the mental health impacts on young people is staggering. For example:
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called “the increase in youth mental health needs “the defining public health crisis of our time.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, in 2021, 57% of high school girls reported experiencing “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year,” up from 36% in 2011. That’s nearly twice as high as the 29% of males who reported having those feelings in 2021.
In addition, 22% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide during the past year; 18% made a suicide plan; and 10% attempted suicide, the report found.
It is also important to understand the significant challenges that BIPOC communities face when it comes to mental health care. For example, BIPOC communities often have less access to mental health services, and when they receive care, it is more likely to be poor quality. Also, for Black youth, studies have shown that mental health issues such as depression may manifest differently than it does in adults, leaving these youth to be punished rather than offered mental health support. When you add in social stigma and limited access to diverse mental health providers, it is clear our community is struggling.
So what can we do about it?
At YWCA National Capital Area, we are called to action when our community needs us. In response to these needs, we are excited to launch the Young Women’s Mental Health Initiative– a new mental health focused initiative that will support young women in our community.
We believe that the mental health of young women in our community should be addressed with the utmost urgency. While many pre-pandemic activities are beginning to reemerge, the lasting impacts of the global pandemic still weigh heavy in the minds of our youth. It is imperative, especially during Mental Health Awareness Month, to call attention to and provide resources for the many youth in our community in need of mental health support.
This initiative is our first step. We are excited and hope you can support our efforts.