Improving Academic, Mental Health, and Social Outcomes for Black Adolescent Teens

Published by Amanda Lynn Helman on

Did you know there is still a gap in academic, mental health, and social outcomes for Black (Carribean and African) Adolescent teens? 

For decades, I have continuously reflected on the disparities and inequalities as an educator, educational leader, mental health advocate, and professor.

 Unfortunately, changes for equity for all students, regardless of race, across all systems has not greatly shifted. 

In the last semester of my studies to obtain my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, I had the opportunity to delve into research across several areas that I am passionate about. The statistics will be reviewed with some recommendations for how to move towards more equitable practices.

Mental Health Outcomes

 According to SAMHSA’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health,  more Black youth ages 12-17 have increases of major depressive episodes (increase from 9% to 10.3% the past year) and increase in suicidal thoughts an increase from 6% to 9.5% over the past decade. 

Literacy and Education Outcomes 

Racial trauma and Inequitable practices that have impacted Black students across educational outcomes.  The reading achievement gap for Black students reveal that through 1992 through 2019, 9% of Black students are performing at or above the National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP) in comparison to 41% of their White peers performing above the national NAEP progress report card (NAEP, 2021).  This impacts post-school outcomes and opportunities.

Social Outcomes

Due to higher increases of Black female teens receiving higher numbers of detention, in and out of school suspension (Crenshaw et al. 2014), Black female teens felt less support from their friends and felt more alone due to the addition of racial trauma experiences that occurred (Dutil, 2020).

Recommendations for Moving Forward.

Trauma-Informed Training and practices, without a focus on racial trauma, is not comprehensive trauma training (Hardy, 2020). One area that must be addressed collectively in communities and educational settings is acknowledging and addressing the ongoing impact of racial trauma on Black female teens and their families. There is a lot of research focused on Black adolescent male teens but very little for females. It is important to continue to hear the voices of Black female teens and how racial trauma has impacted them across the lifespan.

Additional equitable curriculum and interventions should be accessible across all schools. Jonathan Kozol, author of Inequalities in Savage Inequalities in Schools, has discussed concern for Black students for decades. Curriculum resources are to be available for every child to have a quality education. 

Mental health supports, resources, intervention, and training for families and communities should be available and accessible. It will take communities willing to come together and have hard conversations that will support Black female teens with mental health outcomes changing for the better. Conversations must include review of the current suspension and detention policies with discussion of how to recognize any racial discrepancies when it comes to discipline. Black adolescent teens deserve support and an equitable future ahead. Mental health and social outcomes are connected. 


CDC. (2019). High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Retrieved from

Crenshaw, Kimberlé Williams, Ocean, Priscilla, Nanda, Jyoti. 2014. Black girls matter: Pushed out, overpoliced, and underprotected. New York: African American Policy Forum.

Dutil (2020). Dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline: A trauma-informed, critical race perspective on school discipline. Children and School, 43, 1 

Hardy, K. (2015). Race inside and outside the therapy room. Psychotherapy Network Symposium 2015.

Kozol, J. (1991).  Children in America’s Schools. New York :Crown Pub.

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Amanda Lynn Helman

Hi. I'm Amanda Helman, Ph.D. I promote body, mind, soul wellness for children, youth, and adults. Connect with me here or on our Facebook page Amanda Helman-Author and Speaker.