New research shows trauma and inequity created worsening mental health for Chicago’s young men of color

Photo credit Communities United

Lurie Children’s Hospital and Communities United are using the voices of young Black and Brown men to transform mental and behavioral healthcare.

The youth research group Ujima, which is made up of young men between the ages of 14 and 19 who live in the Albany Park, Austin, North Lawndale, Roseland, and West Ridge neighborhoods, conducted a study to answer one question:

“As boys and young men of color, what are the challenges we face and what are the resources we need to support our mental health and wellbeing?” asked Ujima member Jermal Ray.

The group conducted 41 surveys, 11 interviews, and two youth-led focus groups with their peers in which they asked about mental health.

They found 66% of young men say they’re struggling with mental health and another 59% said they’d consider professional counseling if given the chance.

“We conducted this research during the pandemic, when we experienced the loss of many loved ones, including one of our peers,” said Ray. “We experienced a national race uprising, social isolation, remote learning, a loss of jobs, a loss of homes, and a lack of outlets.”

Other findings show that trauma is often normalized for young men of color and that they feel they cannot share their full experiences and emotions with mental health providers without negative repercussions.

That includes fear of being placed in the child welfare system or being sent to in-patient psychiatric facilities.

Photo credit Communities United

Ujima hopes its research will be used to create better access to mental health services.

“We want a world where systems are built by us and for us,” said Ray. “There is an opportunity here for mental health systems to learn from the coping and resilience of young men of color and to adapt the nature and range of services provided in our current mental health system.”

Download the Ujima report "Changing the Beat of Mental Health: Amplifying Our Voice" here.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images