Mental health crises among Black youth are increasing at an alarming rate. From 1991 to 2019, self-reported suicide attempts rose by 80%. Time will tell what impact the pandemic has had on those numbers, but based on what we’ve noticed in our own communities, we can’t imagine it has helped.
There are many explanations for the challenges facing Black youth—some are circumstantial and some are systemic—but one reason they’ve reached such dire proportions is the lack of access many low-income communities have to mental healthcare.
Access Starts With Visibility
Studies show that 25% of wealthy communities in the US have practicing mental health specialists, as opposed to 8% of low-income communities. Those without access are forced to rely on overburdened school counselors and/or primary care physicians. That, or they simply do not receive care.
Atlanta is fortunate to have one of the few clinics in the country that offers ongoing mental healthcare to low-income communities. Every Tuesday, a team of specialists from the Morehouse School of Medicine conducts telehealth visits with low-income youth. Dr. Sarah Vinson and her team of mental health specialists were featured recently in a New York Times article and also discussed on NPR’s Fresh Air.
Dealing With Trauma
As we mentioned during our end-of-year campaign, one of our own priorities for 2023 is providing our students a licensed counselor with whom they can talk about some of the traumatic circumstances many of them are facing.
In addition to the challenges that often affect marginalized youth, the recent rise in violent crime has caused many of them to worry for their safety, and in some cases, even face the loss of friends and loved ones.
Something’s Got to Give
The mental health crisis among Black youth isn’t likely to resolve on its own. Either the circumstances that cause it must change, or the support and resources we devote to it. At RE, we are committed to providing our students with the academic, social, and emotional support they need to succeed. For the moment, that means focusing a lot on mental wellness.
To help us secure mental health resources for our students, please donate here.