Celebrating Mental Health Month

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The Steve Fund focuses on the mental health of young people in communities of color, and by extension, we value the people in their lives who promote their growth, well-being, and success. This is why the Steve Fund is observing May, Mental Health Month, by honoring mental health therapists of all professional disciplines who serve our adolescents and young adults.

Whether in person, through telehealth, or via text, therapists create and hold space for young people to process their stressors and bear witness to trauma to foster healing.  They coach young people as they navigate everyday struggles and extraordinarily challenging circumstances. They are non-judgmental, compassionate, and ethical. They maintain confidentiality of the innermost thoughts that young people share. They show empathy and exhibit cultural humility. We appreciate their grounding in history, cognizance of the current social context, and their hopefulness for the future.

How does a young person of color in the U.S. maintain mental health? In addition to their relying on their own grit and determination to move forward by any means necessary, young people from communities of color have relied on therapy to manage environments that are, at times, hostile to them solely for being who they are.

Mental health professionals have been the “go-to” for young people contending with hate crimes, book bans, prohibitions on Black studies and LGBTQIA initiatives, confusion about student debt relief, and community and mass violence. Their guidance assists young people in examining their lives, gaining insight, and making changes to adapt to their environments. Mental health professionals occupy a special place. They listen intently to the narratives of young people, collaborate on unpacking emotional baggage, and gently nudge young people to get back on track.

Therapists inform young people about mental health approaches, such as mindfulness, in order to stay in the moment, deal with what’s in front of them, and not get too far ahead of themselves.  They have acknowledged and honored the humanity of young people from communities of color and urged them to exhibit kindness and empathy across divides.  It is necessary to encourage young people to change what they can, accept what they can’t, and speak out to make their voices heard about things that need to change.

Listening intently to stories of young people, therapists guide them in reframing thoughts about themselves and their situations from negative to positive. They have helped young people think through how to get beyond whatever mishap has transpired and adjust their lenses to see in real-time how their lives are unfolding.

We salute therapists for their work with young people from communities of color to establish, maintain, and sustain their mental health and well-being. These investments will ensure a brighter future for everyone. Our hope is that these dedicated professionals will take care of themselves and seek the support they need to ensure their own wellness in order to continue their important work with young people on which we depend.

Women’s History Month: Our Stories, Our Time

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During March, a month designated for the celebration of women’s history, the Steve Fund centers the mental health of young women of color. Women are more likely than men to experience depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. Their vulnerability to these conditions are related to forms of gender bias and misogyny including unequal pay in the workplace, intimate partner abuse, and sexual assault. 

In recent years, women activists of color, most notably Tarana Burke, led the charge to expose the widespread prevalence of sexual abuse of women and support survivors through the #MeToo movement. The Steve Fund sees this type of advocacy and female empowerment as a critical component of women’s mental health.

Four young women celebrities exemplify the connection between empowerment and mental health. Model Quannah Chasinghorse honored her Indigenous roots at the Gilded Glamor-themed 2022 Met Gala. Since the Gilded Age was associated with genocide, displacement, and trauma of Indigenous people, Channah wore jewelry and other adornments that showcased Native pride including eagle feathers, which are symbol of strength and balance of mind, body, and spirit. Megan Thee Stallion, the rapper, who has had her own experiences with trauma, has created an informative mental health website and launched the Joy Is Our Journey tour for Black girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth focused on wellness. Actress and singer Selena Gomez has a mental health platform, Wondermind, and established the Rare Impact Fund which seeks to raise millions for mental health services. Teen gymnast and Gold medalist Sunisa Lee is the first member of Hmong heritage to represent the U.S. at the Olympic games. She overcame anxiety and significant personal trauma and loss during the pandemic to achieve her historic win.

The Steve Fund salutes these young luminaries who amplify women’s empowerment, mental health, and well-being. We hope their agency will inspire you in your version of flourishing while female!

Unapologetically Free

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Unapologetically Free

Centering Mental Health on Black College Campuses 

Together with the United Negro College Fund and Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the Steve Fund is partnering with Black colleges and universities to center mental health for their students, faculty, and administration.

Black colleges serve as safe spaces for Black students, providing a supportive, inclusive environment for students to learn and thrive. In these uncertain times, we renew our focus on mental health on the campuses of Black colleges and universities so that we all can be UNAPOLOGETICALLY FREE.

Join a Free Event

For Students
Racial Healing: Creating Space for Wellness Throughout College
Free virtual workshop with Dr. Batsirai Bvunzawabaya
Thursday, February 23, 2023, 6-7 PM EST
Learn more & Register > 

For Students
Reimagining Thriving Communities for Girls and Young Women
Free Virtual Workshop with Tiana Brawley
Thursday, March 16, 2023, 4-5 PM EST
Learn more & Register > 

For Faculty & Staff
My Student is Having a Mental Health Crisis. Now What?
Free virtual workshop with Dr. Jan Collins-Eaglin
Thursday, March 23, 2023, 6-7 PM EST
Learn more & Register > 

For Students, Faculty & Staff
UNAPOLOGETICALLY FREE: Student Mental Health Conference
Facilitators: The Steve Fund and the United Negro College Fund
Tuesday, April 11, and Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Get Updates > 

For Educators & Leaders
Participate in the Mental Health Community of Action at UNITE 2023
July 17-20, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Georgia
Learn more & Register >

Find Resources


Unapologetically Free Tool Kit download 

HBCU Leaders

HBCU Students

UNITE 2023 Summit

Read the Press Release

Unprecedented Initiative UNAPOLOGETICALLY  FREE Centers Mental Health at HBCUs and other Black colleges


Unprecedented Initiative UNAPOLOGETICALLY  FREE Centers Mental Health at HBCUs and other Black colleges

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Read the Press Release

Unprecedented Initiative UNAPOLOGETICALLY  FREE Centers Mental Health at HBCUs and other Black colleges

Offering customized programs and opportunities to support mental health on Black college campuses 

ATLANTA, GA (Feb. 13, 2023)—Today UNCF (United Negro College Fund), The Steve Fund and Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) launched an unprecedented national effort, Unapologetically Free: Centering Mental Health on Black College Campuses.

Unapologetically Free includes a customized set of culturally responsive programs and opportunities to support mental health on Black college campuses, including:

  • A series of virtual workshops designed for students, faculty, and staff, starting this month
  • A virtual student conference to be held in April
  • Sessions in July at UNITE 2023: UNCF Summit for Black Higher Education; and
  • A first-of-its-kind mental health research survey focused mental health of Black college students

Programming for the workshops and student conference is led by the Steve Fund, a premier nonprofit promoting mental health and emotional well-being for young people of color.

“HBCUs have always been shelters in the storm for Black students, especially in uncertain times,” said UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax. “This initiative offers our entire Black higher education community an opportunity to learn from participating Black colleges while enhancing the practices that make our students free to focus on their well-being.”

Unapologetically Free is designed to respond to a rise in mental health challenges among college students across the country. In 2021, more than 60 percent of college students met the criteria for one or more mental health problems, a jump of nearly 50% since 2013. A survey conducted by UNCF and the Steve Fund last year reported that an overwhelming majority of students, faculty, and staff at HBCUs want to be informed about resources to support mental health on their campuses.

President and CEO of Thurgood Marshall College Fund Dr. Harry L. Williams announced that his organization would support outreach on the effort and said that he hopes the impact of Unapologetically Free will be felt at the nation’s Black colleges and universities and beyond.

“By engaging our partner institutions, we intend to help evolve mental health approaches at HBCUs while helping them lead a national conversation on the mental health needs of Black students in higher education,” Dr. Williams said. “HBCUs have always worked to meet students where they are, and higher education would be well served to learn from their example.”

Evan Rose, president of the board at the Steve Fund, said the initiative had been designed intentionally to amplify the voices, perspectives, and experiences of students on Black college campuses, and to build on the community support that already exists on Black college campuses as they respond to stigma, societal barriers and lack of equitable access to resources and care.

“The Steve Fund’s mental health experts will highlight the ways to further focus on the mental health and emotional well-being of HBCU students,” Rose said. “We are following the lead of Black college student leaders, faculty, and administrators who have stewarded safe, racially affirming higher education spaces for decades.”

UNCF’s leadership on this initiative is spearheaded by its Institute for Capacity Building’s Strategy Development team, which Julian Thompson directs. Since the start of the pandemic, UNCF has coordinated activities to support student engagement, well-being, and sense of belonging, including a national coaching campaign for entering, first-year and stop-out students.

“We seek to activate leaders on Black college campuses, uncover insights and promising practices, and develop innovative strategies that will help further their institutional transformation,” Thompson said. “Through Unapologetically Free, our partners and UNCF can make an even greater impact on student, faculty, and staff mental health at HBCUs and beyond.”

This week, Unapologetically Free will begin to administer a customized Black college module of the Health Minds Study, the longest-standing, most comprehensive research survey on mental health in higher education. Dr. Jaffus Hardrick, president of Florida Memorial University, one of the first HBCUs to promote the study, said HBCUs are coming together as a community to respond to student needs.

“We know our students, many of whom are the first from their families to pursue higher education, confront challenges that can feel overwhelming at times,” Dr. Hardrick said. “Unapologetically Free couldn’t be more timely in offering all HBCUs an opportunity to expand on the tools and practices that make our communities resilient.”

More information on upcoming workshops, conferences, and research efforts can be found at


About the Partnership

UNCF and the Institute for Capacity Building

UNCF (United Negro College Fund), the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization, supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, strengthens its 37 member colleges and universities, and advocates for minority education. UNCF’s Institute for Capacity Building partners with Black higher education institutions to support their transformation and continual innovation—all to propel student success, community advancement, and the fight for educational equity and racial justice. Each year ICB organizes UNITE, the most influential gathering on Black higher education. Learn more at Join us at

The Steve Fund

The Steve Fund’s mission is to promote the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color as they transition from adolescence into higher education, throughout their higher education experience, and as they transition into the workforce so that they can lead healthy lives; attain personal, academic, and career success; and realize their full potential. The Steve Fund’s HBCU Initiative partners with HBCU organizations, students, and colleges to improve mental health by providing customized resources and programs and increasing the capacity of faculty and staff to support the emotional well-being of HBCU students. For more information, visit


Thurgood Marshall College Fund

Established in 1987, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund is the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community. TMCF member-schools include the publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs). Publicly-supported HBCUs enroll over 80% of all students attending HBCUs. Through scholarships, capacity building and research initiatives, innovative programs, and strategic partnerships, TMCF is a vital resource in the K-12 and higher education space. Learn more at 


Find Additional Resources 

for Young People and Families of Color 

Support the Steve Fund today

Gentle January: Supporting our mental health journey in 2023 one step at a time

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The new year allows us to reboot, reset, and renew. Rather than big, bold resolutions as we step into 2023, the Steve Fund suggests pursuing a kinder, gentler January. Each of us can unpack 2022 at our own pace, re-examining what happened and reconsidering the implications going forward for young people of color and our families, educational institutions, and communities. 


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released their survey results of the challenges young people of color faced in school during the pandemic. They highlighted the importance of connection as a protective factor against racism. Harmful episodes of Asian hate were reported across the country. Horrific mass shootings occurred in the Black and Latino/a/x communities of Buffalo and Uvalde against a steady drumbeat of everyday violence across the nation. The chilling discovery of burial sites of young Indigenous people at boarding schools revealed a sordid history of abuse. Books by authors of color were banned in some school systems.


In the face of challenges, young people push forward.

Despite these and other disturbing events contributing to psychological distress and other mental health concerns, there have been numerous signs of hope — and young people of color have continued to push ahead. They voted in record numbers with their peers to make their voices heard. Racially diverse groups of young people banded together to protest threats to affirmative action at the Supreme Court. Young people of color with government-backed higher education loans are waiting for student debt relief to become a reality. A young person of color in Florida has become the youngest ever elected to the U.S. Congress at age 25.


Reimagine what you want in 2023

As you reflect on these developments and your journey in 2022, reimagine what you want to do this year. You may re-prioritize what seemed less important last year to the top of your 2023 to-do list. Rekindling relationships and revising strategies may be in order. Some things may need to be let go, so choosing to discard rather than rehash may be the way. Reinvest in your mental health and well-being by utilizing virtual resources geared toward young people of color, including the Steve Fund’s Wellness Circles and Crisis Text Line (TEXT STEVE TO 741741).


Regardless of the direction you choose in 2023, remember, as things unfold, you can always correct, re-route, and proceed. Have a gentle January — and have safe, successful travels on the path forward. And while you’re at it, reclaim your joy!


Dr. Annelle Primm

Senior Medical Director

The Steve Fund

Join the Give Hope Holiday Campaign

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For many of us, the holidays are a time of family, celebrations and reunions with loved ones. However you celebrate your traditions, the holidays arrive with expectation, and can be a hard time for many of us. School deadlines, the pressure to “be on” and stretching finances for gifts and travel can trigger mixed emotions and increased ambivalence.

We invite you to join the Give Hope holiday campaign. With your support, we can reach many more young people of color who may struggle at this time of year with resources and to provide help, hope and healing during the holiday season.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Download and use our Give Hope Holiday social posts, resource sheets and more below to share tips and information with your loved ones and community.
  2. Donate to the Steve Fund so we can extend our resources, research, and relationships to support many more. You can give monthly or make a one-time gift.

Let’s make our message of hope to young people very clear: You are not alone. You matter — and so does your mental health. With your support, we will continue to offer vital resources, to change the national conversation, and to address the mental health emergency affecting our young people.

Please remember us at Steve Fund and make a donation. Together, we can support our young people and Give Hope this holiday.

With deepest gratitude,

Dr. Tia Dole
Executive Director



Download & Share

Here are a few resources to share with your loved ones and community:

  1. Email introducing the campaign from Dr. Tia Dole, Executive Director – Download
  2. Email text you can customize and send to friends, family and community – Download
  3. Social posts 
    1. Give Hope – Download
    2. “I Gave” post – Download
    3. 4 Tips tile –  Download
  4. Selfie kit to post to your social media feeds
    1. Selfie card to print out for selfie – Download
  5. WhatsApp / Text Copy
    1. Social graphic – Download
    2. Short copy – Download

The Steve Fund comments on the state of mental health in America

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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the psychosocial status of youth of color is highlighted in several recent national reports, along with recommendations for actions. 

The CDC Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey (ABES) found elevated levels of emotional distress among high school teens with 44.3% reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Over half (55%) of teens said they experienced emotional abuse from a parent or caregiver and 11.3% reported suffering physical abuse. Nine percent of students reported a suicide attempt and 20% considered suicide. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens and female teens reported higher levels of poor mental health, emotional abuse by a parent or caregiver, and suicide attempts. 

Many students reported experiences of racism at school. More than 40% of Hispanic students, more than 50% of Black and students of multiple races, and more than 60% of Asian students felt they had been treated badly or unfairly at school because of their race or ethnicity (compared to just over 20% of white students). Students who reported racism were also more likely to experience poor mental health and less likely to feel connected to people at school, the ABES report notes. Asian, Black, and Hispanic students are significantly less likely than white students to say they feel close to people at their school. Students of color (AI/AN 7%, Asian 4%, Black 6%, Hispanic 5%) were less likely than white students (10%) to receive mental health care via telemedicine during the pandemic.

The high levels of stress among young people and their families underscore the need for mental health support in schools and workplaces. 

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory, Protecting Youth Mental Health, documented the decline in mental health among young people during the pandemic which has been driven by environmental risk factors. Among them are living in an urban area or an area with more severe COVID-19 outbreaks; having a parent or caregiver who is a frontline worker; experiencing more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs); contending with more instability in financial status, food access, and housing; and losing a family member or caregiver to COVID-19. As of March 2022, more than 200,000 children under 18 lost a parent or other in-home caregiver to COVID-19. Children and youth of color lost caregiving adults at higher rates than their white peers. American Indian and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander children lost caregivers at about 3.5 times the rate of white children; Black and Hispanic children at nearly 2 times the rate of white children; and Asian children at 1.4 times that of white children.(1)  Mental health risks were compounded by isolation and disruption in education associated with having limited internet access and language barriers to accessing healthcare in immigrant families. The Advisory outlines an extensive series of actions to address youth mental health, including recommendations for educators, health care professionals, media organizations, community organizations, employers, parents, youth, and others.

Communities of color have been under-treated for their mental health needs. As part of a broad mental health strategy announced by President Biden in his State of the Union Address, the Administration aims to strengthen the mental health system in a number of ways that will benefit young people of color. In order to facilitate access to and availability of mental health care, the strategy calls for increasing the supply and diversity of the mental health workforce and fostering the provision of culturally appropriate and affirming care. Training a diverse group of community health workers can expand access to behavioral health services in underserved communities and provide jobs for young people. 

Another important aspect of access to care is the response to those experiencing a mental health crisis. Given the frequency of traumatic experiences and the tragic criminalization of mental illness in communities of color, the new nationwide “988” crisis response line, which the Biden Administration will launch this summer, can help improve response to the mental health needs and safety of young people of color experiencing crises. Expanding access to telehealth, a safe and effective type of mental health service that has reduced barriers to care, can also be highly beneficial for young people of color. Expanding access to mental health support in schools, colleges, and universities will benefit young people of color. Ultimately, President Biden’s national mental health strategy seeks to address mental health in a holistic and equitable way helping young people of color achieve optimal mental health and rewarding futures.

To address the challenges outlined in these reports, and in line with their recommendations, The Steve Fund will continue its focus on expanding mental health support to young people of color in schools, colleges, and universities, and in the workplace, along with a variety of other initiatives. For example, we encourage young people of color to be involved in their own mental well-being and that of their peers and friends by providing opportunities to increase their knowledge and understanding about mental health, mental illness, self-care, and the importance of help-seeking when needed.

The Steve Fund also works in partnership with its Community of Action, including educators, employers, mental health professionals, families, and young people of color, to advance our programs, resources, mental health supports, and research. Recent initiatives include working with medical students of color, working directly with families of color to help them decrease stigma and increase access for their youth; and offering grief and loss workshops for teens. We continue to work with educational institutions through implementation of our Equity in Mental Health on Campus framework. 


  1. Source:  Hidden Pain: Children Who Lost a Parent or Caregiver to COVID-19 and What the Nation Can do to Help Them. March 2022   COVID Collaborative.


Key Data and Recommendations from the reports


CDC Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey (ABES)  

The report documents a broad range of impacts on youth’s daily lives, including difficulties, family economic impacts, hunger, and abuse in the home.

  • Students of color were more likely than white to report hunger; Black students were most likely to report hunger, with nearly a third reporting that there was not enough food in their home during the pandemic.


  • Asian, Black, and Hispanic students are significantly less likely than white students to say they feel close to people at their school.

  • More than 40% of Hispanic students, more than 50% of Black and students of multiple races, and more than 60% of Asian students felt they had been treated badly or unfairly at school because of their race or ethnicity (compared to just over 20% of white students).

  • Students who reported racism were also more likely to experience poor mental health and less likely to feel connected to people at school. [note: this statement is directly from CDC summary]

  • Students of color were significantly less likely than white students to receive mental health care  via telemedicine during the pandemic (AI/AN 7%, Asian 4%, Black 6%, Hispanic 5%, white 10%).


Biden Administration Mental Health Strategy

Among the many components of the strategy, it aims to

  • Facilitate access to and availability of mental health care.
  • Increase the supply and diversity of the mental health workforce.
  • Foster the provision of culturally appropriate and affirming care. 
  • Implementation of the new nationwide “988” crisis response line.
  • Expand access to telehealth, a safe and effective type of mental health service that has reduced barriers to care. 
  • Expand access to mental health support in schools and higher education institutions.


U.S. Surgeon General Advisory Protecting Youth Mental Health 

The advisory presents many recommendations to help protect youth mental health, including

  • Address the unique mental health needs of at-risk youth, such as racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ youth, and youth with disabilities. 
  • Use trauma-informed care principles and other prevention strategies. 


    • Identify and address the mental health needs of parents, caregivers, and other family members.
  • Educate the public about the importance of mental health, and reduce negative stereotypes, bias, and stigma around mental illness. 
  • Elevate the voices of children, young people, and their families.


Our Mission: Promoting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color