Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to contemplate the ingredients of a future of mental health and emotional well-being for women and girls of color. First, it is important to review some of the realities surrounding women and girls with a focus on those from communities of color.

Over 1 out of 5 women experienced a mental health condition such as depression and anxiety in the past year (https://www.womenshealth.gov/).  Women who experience abuse and trauma have an increased risk of a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Women of color, who have similar rates of mental health concerns as women in the general population, face the risk of extended duration and more harmful impact than their counterparts (https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/mental-health-care-for-women-of-color-risk-factors-barriers-and-clinical-recommendations)

A 2022 CDC report (https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2022/p0331-youth-mental-health-covid-19.html) that focused on the high school population during the pandemic found that adolescent girls reported greater levels of poor mental health; emotional abuse by a parent or caregiver; and having attempted suicide. The report also revealed that 36% of students said they experienced racism before or during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 64% of Asian students and 55% of Black students and multiracial students reporting such occurrences. These statistics show the risk of exposure of female youth of color to toxic factors damaging to mental health, educational achievement, and long-term health behaviors. In a recent alarming incident, a Black woman college administrator died by suicide before she could access mental health care. Studies have shown that women of color are less than half as likely to seek adequate mental health care than their white counterparts underscoring the critical importance of paying attention to the mental health needs of girls and women of color.

The good news is that we can take a public health approach to the mental health of women and female youth of color by applying protective factors to prevent risk factors from having a detrimental impact on mental well-being. The following list provides examples of protective factors that help to address mental health needs and reduce the stressors associated with the lived experience of being a woman or girl of color:

  •   Self-care, attending to our needs, setting appropriate boundaries, and getting plenty of rest, as recommended by the Nap Ministry and the book, Rest is Resistance, https://thenapministry.com/
  •   Mental health care from practitioners from the discipline of the recipient’s choice who are culturally humble and can provide culturally grounded, culturally affirming, trauma-responsive, and healing-centered mental health services with consciousness of the importance of intersectionality
  •   Eating nutritious foods and staying hydrated
  •   Physical movement, whether walking, working out, yoga, dance, or other activities
  •   Pleasurable and creative activities including art, music, crafts, and other aesthetic expressions that bring joy
  •   Relaxation in the form of meditation, massage, journalling, sound baths
  •   Spiritual activity such as prayer, worship, or engaging with nature
  •   Having a support system to turn to during tough times, to offer unconditional positive regard, and to ward off isolation, which can have a deleterious impact on mental health and overall health
  •   Peer groups or sister circles providing a regular opportunity to connect with others
  •   Civic engagement and advocacy to foster a sense of agency and involvement in improving community life

In order to ensure a healthy future, quality of life and well-being, women and girls of color should consider the above measures. Also, they and the people who love and support them need to be aware of the warning signs of mental health conditions, sources for mental health care, and mental health-related resources available including but not limited to:

  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline
  • Crisis Text Line Text STEVE to 741741
  • Mental Health First Aid, Liberate
  • Therapy for Black Girls
  • Inclusive Therapists
  • The Loveland Foundation
  • Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Mental Health America
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
  • BEAM
  • National Council on Mental Wellbeing
  • National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color
  • Working on Womanhood (WOW) https://www.youth-guidance.org/working-on-womanhood/