Kristina* is a great student; She’s engaged, works hard, and is the leader of several student groups. Her peers look up to her, and all of the adults in her life recognize her potential. What they don’t see is that Kristina is like a duck: calm on the surface, but paddling furiously beneath the water to stay afloat. She, like millions of other young people, is struggling with anxiety and depression.
Mental health disorders can affect women and men differently. Women, especially girls, are more likely than their male peers to develop anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. Young women are also significantly less likely to receive treatment for their conditions. In California, the number of young men who accessed Medi-Cal specialty mental health services outnumbered their female counterparts by more than 32,000 annually over the last five years.
This gap in treatment is, in part, because women and girls often internalize their emotions. Unlike boys, who are more likely to show signs of emotional distress, girls may not show any signs at all. This can prevent them from being identified or screened for mental illness until they reach a crisis point, if at all. Internalization can also lead to withdrawal, loneliness, and isolation.
Without access to mental health treatment, young women are at increased risk of adverse outcomes. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the suicide rate for women increased by more than 45% between 1999 and 2014, whereas the increase for men was 15%. Among girls ages 10 to 14, suicides increased threefold during this period, jumping from 0.5 to 1.5 per 100,000. Girls are also the fastest growing group in the juvenile justice system, especially African Americans girls, often due to untreated trauma and mental illness. The National Juvenile Justice Network found that, among girls involved in the juvenile justice system, 31% reported a personal experience of sexual violence in the home (4.4 times higher than boys), 41% reported being physically abused, and 84% reported experiencing family violence.
To address the unique mental health needs of young women, Young Minds Advocacy is launching an innovative new project called “Generation Bold: Mental Health Advocacy For Girls, By Girls”, made possible through a grant from the hope & grace fund, a project of New Venture Fund in partnership with philosophy, inc. Gen Bold will highlight how expression with purpose can counteract internalization and be transformative, both for an individual and whole communities.
Through this project, YMA will develop a social media campaign for girls, by girls, around mental health issues, and foster effective advocacy skills in the next generation of young women leaders. Our hope is that this initiative will promote women’s voices, address barriers to care for girls, and transform story sharing into a tool for change.
But we can’t do it alone! Here are some ways that you can get involved in Gen Bold and address the mental health needs of girls:
- Share your story
Who run the world?! GIRLS! If you’re a young woman, age 16 – 24, we want you to participate in our campaign. You can do that TODAY by sharing your story through our blog. To learn more visit: ymadvocacy.org/submit-a-post or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Become a community partner
Does your organization serve young women, ages 16 – 24, in the California Bay Area? If so, we’d love to partner with you! Please email email@example.com for more information. While local partners are our focus, organizations from outside the Bay Area and California are also encouraged to reach out.
As the initiative develops there will be other ways for community members to get involved. To stay up-to-date on Generation Bold and other innovative projects, please sign up today!
*Name has been changed to protect their identity.