Understanding the Potential of Youth Participatory Action Research to Improve African American Youth Mental Health Outcomes

How do Black youth experience a youth participatory action research intervention meant to improve mental health outcomes?

The pervasiveness of structural and interpersonal racism creates stress and emotional pain for Black youth that can be described as racial trauma. This racial trauma manifests in outcomes like rising rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation compared to White youth. Despite the disproportionately high risk for mental health problems due to racism, Black youth are less likely to receive mental health support. Woods-Jaeger and colleagues will conduct a community- and youth-engaged qualitative study across three cities to explore how Black youth experience an intervention intended to directly address racial trauma and promote improved mental health outcomes. Youth Empowered Advocating for Health (YEAH) uses a youth participatory action research approach through which Black youth conduct photovoice projects focused on racial trauma and mental health and plan a community forum to share their projects and advocate for community-based mental health solutions. The team will collect and analyze qualitative data from YEAH photovoice sessions, multiple in-depth interviews with participants, focus groups with youth who engage in the community forums, and interviews with the facilitators. They will also collect pre-intervention surveys with the YEAH participants to gather quantitative data on racial identity and racism-related stress. Findings may shed light on practices to promote growth and healing following racial trauma to help Black youth develop healthy coping skills and resilience in a society where racism persists despite change.

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