Using design thinking with Black youth in the juvenile justice system to address mental health inequities

How would Black youth in the juvenile justice system redesign that system to better meet their mental health needs?

While the majority of youth within the juvenile justice system need mental health support, Black youth are less likely than their White counterparts to receive mental health treatment before, during, or after contact with the system. To counter the racial bias that often characterizes top-down reforms, this study centers the voices of Black youth detained in two Georgia campuses to identify how the juvenile justice system could better address their mental health needs. This qualitative study brings together youth currently in custody for four two-week long workshop sessions where youth will work with professional game designers and the project team to develop a collaborative game prototype that depicts youth-endorsed pathways to reducing mental health inequities and then present that game to juvenile justice system and community stakeholders. Over two years, the team will conduct four iterative qualitative research cycles, one with each group. After each cycle, the team will also iterate on session content and data collection procedures using youth feedback and field notes to refine their approach. Data collected include youth-created artifacts (including game prototypes), ethnographic field notes, meeting notes, team member reflections, participant demographic data, and information about participant use of mental health services. By depicting existing barriers to mental health care for Black youth, as well as the resources they believe will improve their mental health within the justice system and as they re-enter society, the team hopes to show the potential of games to help youth engage stakeholders and potentially inform policy changes that impact their daily lives.

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