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.