Youth mental health holds key to the future

It’s not too late to build unity, peace and prosperity in the city


A growing percentage of youth in the United States live with major depression. According to Mental Health America, 15.08 percent of youth (age 12-17) experienced a major depressive episode in 2021, a 1.24 percent increase from 2020. In Minnesota, it’s almost 16 percent of youth, or 70,000. Over 2.5 million youth in the U.S. have severe depression, and multiracial youth are at the greatest risk.
Childhood depression is more likely to persist into adulthood if gone untreated, but only half of the children with pediatric major depression are diagnosed before adulthood. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that about 11 percent of U.S. adults had symptoms of depression or anxiety. In 2020, that rose to 40 percent.
Depression is hard for anyone to understand that doesn’t have it. And it’s a lot harder to understand if you have it. Depression is an invisible enemy. We need to keep a better eye on those that are struggling with depression and mental illness. We are so busy. We take our eyes off the important things until it is too late.
A major challenge is getting BIPOC youth to engage around mental health. There is a disconnect in the BIPOC community between youth and the community. Many youth have ​​undiagnosed mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, PTSD and mood disorders. Many have experienced neglect, violence, trauma, and abject poverty.
The challenges don’t end there. Some won’t graduate from high school. Minnesota has one of the worst high school graduation rates for Black and Latino students in the country at 70 percent each. And youth in low-income communities and communities of color experience unemployment at four to six times higher than the Minnesota statewide average unemployment rate, which was at 3.1 percent at the end of 2021. When you’ve never held a job nor completed any formal training, finding financial stability through employment becomes even more difficult.
Can we, as a community, offer an “exit ramp” for youth stuck in a cycle of violence and trauma, and help them develop the strength and skills to transform their lives?
The Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association has assembled a team of collaborative partners to create a program that can provide income, therapeutic services, education, and employment through a community of acceptance and growth. We want to help prevent and stop the violence in Minneapolis with a youth-centered community approach. We will do this by building the capacity of young people to seize and live opportunities for a better future. Our Unity, Peace and Prosperity Plan (UPPP) will provide BIPOC youth (ages 18-24) with low-barrier access to engagement activities designed to build self-advocacy for mental health, reconciliation, healing and intergenerational mentorship.
We will recruit BIPOC youth in Minneapolis who want or need help. We will start through a partnership with 846s, an organization that focuses on youth-led initiatives for violence prevention, safety and mental health. With youth and the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center, Soo Visual Arts Center and Strong Mind Strong Body Foundation — our other collaborative partners — we will co-create the UPPP plan. We will add more partners along the way and work together to provide hope.
We will develop a strong support system to do this work. That starts by creating a safe and nurturing environment to promote mental health and wellness among BIPOC youth. This approach will help us destigmatize mental health therapy among youth, educate and help youth overcome barriers associated with access to mental healthcare, increase youth access to culturally competent therapists, and engage in intergenerational dialogues with healthcare providers to find youth-led innovative strategies to deliver mental health care in BIPOC communities and Minnesota in general.
By providing youth with mental health support, we can help youth break cycles of trauma and violence and build resilience. This support will help them when challenges arise that in the past may have been insurmountable obstacles and perpetuated cycles of violence and trauma. Now, youth will be equipped and have support systems in place to overcome roadblocks or inequities. The mental health services we will provide, along with strategies for dealing with trauma and building resilience, will give youth the tools (and hope) they need to deal with adversity and overcome historical barriers.
By focusing on mental health first, youth can mitigate feelings of hopelessness and reconnect with the community. Then we can provide ongoing guidance, support and resources to develop youth leaders in the community, break cycles of disconnect that result in harm and create opportunities for a better future.
That’s how we bring unity, peace and prosperity to the city.
If you want to join us, get in touch at


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