Transforming the Mental Health Systems Through the Leadership of Youth of Color


CU and VOYCE youth leaders are advancing their vision to transform the mental health system through their experiences.  For too long, Black and Brown communities in Chicago have been impacted by a history of divestment, structural racism, and the criminalization of poverty, resulting in widespread inequities across education, income, housing, health, and all quality-of-life aspects.

The experiences of our members led to the creation of our Healing Through Justice model. Led by survivors of violence and trauma involved in our work, the HTJ model acknowledges that the process of changing systems that both dehumanize youth and families of color and reinforce cycles of trauma is deeply healing for those who have been negatively impacted by those systems.

CU youth leaders are in the process of developing key recommendations to transform the mental health system to address the existing challenges and gaps to fully address community trauma through culturally relevant, and community-led approaches to healing. This work is being led by a dedicated cohort of 25 youth of color in partnership with Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“I don't want my cousins to go through the same things I went through. I want them to live healthy, and by us leading this transformation of the mental health system we are making sure that the response to needs of young people will be addressed.” Derion Smith, Communities United Youth Researcher.