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Why Are Youth Mental Health and Wellness Important?

Most youth are healthy and resilient. However, the number of young people dealing with anxiety and depression has been rising in recent years. It increased even more during the COVID-19 pandemic. A poll by Pew Research suggests that the number one concern of teens is the mental health of their peers.

The challenge is greater for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Other People of Color) youth. Trauma from racism makes BIPOC children more likely to develop mental health issues.

Dismantling structural racism will support all young people. In addition, committing resources to culturally responsive, community-based, and trauma-informed care will support youth and help keep them out of the criminal justice system.

In many cases, we can simply follow the lead of the youth around us. Young people been at the forefront of social justice movements for many years, and continue to drive movements today. Today’s youth are the most progressive generation ever and increasingly engaged in political issues, including advocating for mental health awareness.

Healing and restorative approaches support BIPOC youth.

Healing practices and restorative or transformative justice give BIPOC youth the tools they need to thrive. Centering Black and Indigenous youth helps to dismantle the systems of white supremacy and oppression that harm all young people.

Supportive adults and communities are critical.

Caregivers, educators, and health professionals play a crucial role in providing the stable and nurturing relationships youth need for resilience. We can all play a part by normalizing mental wellness activities and advocating for the young people in our lives.

Who’s Affected by Barriers to Youth Wellness?

Insights from the data below: 

  • Seattle BIPOC middle schoolers report having an adult to talk to at lower rates than their white peers. In participating schools, 87% of white, non-Hispanic youth report having adults they can talk to, while only 65-66% of Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Pacific Islander youth report having this important support.
  • BIPOC middle schoolers also report more challenges with depressive feelings. In 2018, 74% of white, non-Hispanic Seattle middle schoolers reported not having depressive feelings. For Hispanic/Latino and Pacific Islander youth, the figure is only 63%.

Watch an I Love Census Data webinar to learn about:

  • 2020 Census demographics for youth and children
  • How Seattle Public Schools uses data on mental and behavioral health
  • How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected enrollment trends in Seattle Public Schools 

How Can We Measure Youth Wellness?

We can measure youth wellness using metrics that have been proven to have a negative impact on mental health, such as poverty, food insecurity, and housing instability. Structural racism has a powerful impact on each of these metrics.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened structural racism in the United States. BIPOC youth are more likely than non-BIPOC to face new mental health challenges such as:

  • Living in an area with elevated COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Experiencing the death of a family member to COVID-19.
  • Having parents or caregivers who are frontline workers with more exposure to COVID.
  • Having parents or caregivers at high risk of burnout due to work demands, financial instability, and stress.
  • Experiencing disruptions in routine such as not seeing friends or having limited access to alternative learning options like virtual classrooms.

Structural racism gives BIPOC youth less financial access to mental health resources. Racism inside the mental health profession also leads to less diverse providers. BIPOC students prefer seeking mental health help from BIPOC professionals, but 3 out of 4 public school counselors are white and less than 20% of American psychologists are BIPOC.

The current system also excludes BIPOC youth through:

For years, the psychology profession has focused on cultural competency to support BIPOC people, but it is not enough. To truly support BIPOC youth, psychologists and therapists must become anti-racist.

Stories from the Community

Eli's Park Project is a community-led renovation of the Burke-Gilman Playground Park in Seattle. The project’s Teen Advisory Team is a group of Black, female teens in North Seattle. Through community organizing, outreach, and performance they are working to engage community members and help create an accessible, inclusive, nature-based park where people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities can find peace.

Rainier Beach: A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth is a community-led approach to reduce the violence that affects youth in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle. With the goal of building a neighborhood where youth can grow and thrive, the initiative and its youth participants are putting ground-breaking innovation into action to "Be safe. Be respectful. And be responsible."

What Are Some Root Causes of Youth Mental Health Issues?

General

Restorative Justice and Healing

Youth Activism

    Who Is Taking Action?

    Explore the City of Seattle's Actions Towards Racial Equity

    See who to contact, what we'll deliver, and how we plan on meeting our desired outcomes.