Mental Health, School-Based Health Centers, and Girls of Color: Policy and Practice Recommendations

This compendium of policy and practice recommendations aggregates a set of proposals to enhance mental health outcomes and thriving for girls of color. To understand the background and context for these recommendations, please review the Georgetown Law Center’s Initiative on Gender Justice & Opportunity issue briefs on Mental Health and Communities of Color, Mental Health and Girls of Color, and The Promise and Challenge of School-Based Mental Health Care for Girls of Color.

Position Girls of Color as Psychological Subjects. Girls of color face high rates of suicide and endure significant adverse childhood experiences, yet their pain goes unrecognized or is mislabeled, and their needs remain unmet. It is imperative that adults in intervening public systems and those in the health and mental health profession begin to recognize girls of color as psychological subjects with important perspectives on the care they are receiving or have failed to receive. Programs should reflect information on student preferences and regularly collect and apply student feedback.

Read the full report at Georgetown Law Center of Poverty & Inequality’s Initiative of Gender Justice & Opportunity. 

Mental Health and Communities of Color

Communities across the United States face a chronic epidemic of untreated mental health disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five American adults lives with a diagnosable mental health disorder in any given year; however, only 43 percent of those with mental health disorders receive treatment in any given year.1 In general, the prevalence rates of most mental health disorders are similar across racial and ethnic groups. At the same time, studies of rates of self-related exposure to childhood adversity indicate that
members of underrepresented minority groups are more likely to have experienced adversity during childhood — and there is expanding recognition that early exposure to traumatic experiences is itself a risk factor for later health problems, including anxiety and depression. Even in studies that reveal similar prevalence rates of mental health disorders across racial and ethnic groups, disparities exist with respect to diagnoses and treatment.

Read more at Georgetown Law Center of Poverty & Inequality

In Indian Country, a crisis of missing women. And a new one when they’re found.

Prudence Jones had spent two years handing out “Missing” fliers and searching homeless camps and underpasses for her 28-year-old daughter when she got the call she had been praying for: Dani had been found. She was in a New Mexico jail, but she was alive.

It seemed like a happy ending to the story of one of thousands of Native American women and girls who are reported missing every year in what Indigenous activists call a long-ignored crisis. Strangers following Dani’s case on social media cheered the news this past July: “Wonderful!” “Thank you God!” “Finally, some good news.”

But as Ms. Jones visited Dani in jail, saw the fresh scars on her body and tried to comprehend the physical and spiritual toll of two years on the streets, her family, which is Navajo, started to grapple with a painful and lonely epilogue to its missing-persons saga.

Read more at The New York Times. 

Mental Health and Girls of Color

Women and girls of all races and ethnicities are more likely than boys and men to report emotional and psychiatric symptoms. Women and girls of color, in particular, face unique stressors that are compounded by the intersection of race and gender identities. Negative sociocultural experiences rooted in racism, discrimination, and sexism contribute to emotional pain, but often remain unacknowledged as sources of distress.

Children of color experience substantially higher rates of adversity during childhood than their white peers, which can significantly impact physical and mental health, as well as educational and economic outcomes.Trauma, in turn, can lead to engagement with the juvenile justice system, which can itself further exacerbate symptoms.

Further, girls of color experience unique forms and rates of trauma and higher rates of school discipline and involvement in the juvenile justice system — which, in addition to increasing the risk for other negative outcomes, also raises their vulnerability to domestic sex trafficking, as reflected in the disproportionately high rates of representation among trafficking survivors.3

Children of color, including children of immigrants, also are affected by law enforcement policies in the U.S. Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionally represented in the criminal justice system. The effects on children when loved ones are detained, incarcerated, or deported are significant yet often overlooked. For example, separation from incarcerated or deported parents is a type of adverse childhood experience, which can instigate complex forms of grief, depression, and stress-induced health problems.

Read more at the Georgetown Law Center of Poverty & Inequality’s Initiative of Gender Justice & Opportunity

Suicide Attempts Among Black Children and Teens Increasing at Alarming Rates

Suicide attempts among black children and teens are increasing at alarming rates. And while suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens across the United States, suicide attempts over the past two decades decreased for teens in all ethnic groups except for African Americans. These disturbing findings come from the study, “Trends of Suicidal Behaviors Among High School Students in the United States: 1991-2017,” published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Self-reported suicide attempts for black adolescents rose by 73% between 1991 to 2017. In comparison, self-reported suicide attempts for white adolescents fell by 7.5% over the same period. The findings are based on data from nearly 200,000 high school students from the nationally representative Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Read more at CBS. 

Meet the Young Activists of Color who are Leading the Charge Against Climate Disaster

Indisputably, Greta Thunberg is an exemplary leader — inspiring thousands of students worldwide to walk out of class every Friday to protest climate disaster and bringing attention to the Global Climate Strikes last month, in which 4 million people participated. The 16-year-old Swedish founder of the Fridays for Future movement is passionate about spurring those in power to take drastic steps to save humanity’s future, even addressing Congress and the UN to demand accountability.

However, Thunberg never asked to be the messianic-like face for the climate movement. In fact, she told Congress, “I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean.” And by the media and public making her the center of youth-led climate activism, the work of many Indigenous, Black, and Brown youth activists is often erased or obscured.

Read more at Vox.

Black Girls Rock…So Why Aren’t They Getting The Healthcare They Need And Deserve?

When I first met Carla in my Brooklyn clinic, she was a lanky, 38-year-old black mother with HIV and diabetes who was seeking help for cocaine addiction. Constantly shifting in her chair, she admitted that marijuana increased her appetite enough to take her HIV meds with food (“or else I get an upset stomach.”). What I remember most about Carla, however, wasn’t her drug use, her gyrating motions nor years of childhood sexual abuse. It was her sweet smile and humility. When I told her she was a survivor, she replied with a sheepish grin, “Um, well, I suppose I am.” When I said I was proud of her and she’d get the help she needed and deserved, her reaction surprised and saddened me: “No one’s ever said that to me. Thank you.”

Turns out that Carla represents a legion of black women, from all socioeconomic classes, who experience a wide range of health issues but do not receive appropriate medical attention. The voices of black women and women of color have too often been overlooked and ignored. As a physician (and a woman of color) who’s cared for numerous black women from the deep south to the northeast U.S., I’d like to give a voice to this otherwise neglected group of women and the health issues vital to them.

Read more at Forbes. 

Fighting the Degrading and Dangerous Treatment of Menstruating Migrant Girls

It was only a matter of time before President Donald Trump made headlines again over periods.

Just four years ago, in August 2015, he accused then–Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly after the first presidential debate of having “blood coming out of her wherever.” The charge landed the once-taboo topic of menstruation smack in the middle of election coverage—and on the front page of nearly every major national and small-town newspaper in between. It even generated its own viral hashtag, #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult.

Now, 19 states filed a lawsuit in California this week against the Trump administration for the indefinite detention of and conditions endured by migrant children and their families. Among the charges of hygiene deprivation for children detained at the border—including the alleged lack of basics like toothpaste and bars of soap—is insufficient access to menstrual products and care. Testimony in the lawsuit included that: “Girl(s) at the facility…were each given one sanitary pad per day. Although the guards knew they had their periods, they were not offered showers or a change of clothes, even when the other girl visibly bled through her pants.”

Read more at Ms. Magazine. 

4 in 5 black girls face trauma in Arkansas

According to a report from Delta Community Based Services, 56% of children in Arkansas experience some form of trauma before reaching adulthood. Some recover, but some inevitably experience negative effects well into adulthood.

Learn more at KHTV, CBS Arkansas. 


Asian American Girls Can Have ADHD Too

You can tell I’m an Asian-American woman by looking at me. What’s not so obvious is my ADHD; even I didn’t know about it until this year because, in our American society, people who look like me are not “supposed” to have attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD).

I was not “supposed” to have ADHD as a girl; the ADHD stereotypemaintains that only boys who misbehave have ADHD. My elementary school teachers saw a shy girl who listened to directions. What they didn’t see was that I was trying so hard to keep track of what my teacher and classmates were saying in class that I didn’t have time to consider speaking up, so I defaulted to not talking at all. But at recess, I was so energetic and talkative that my friends often called me “hyper,” which I was.

Read more at AADitude Magazine