Chicago Youth Take Action

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please.



Growing up in my underdeveloped neighborhood, the stigma around mental health was very negative. It almost felt like if I had a mental illness, I would be the “weaker” person. It’s pressure like these that make life less enjoyable and less supportive of one’s personal needs. I can give a speech about living in a poor neighborhood and the stigma that creates around mental health. Or I can write something about how there’s little support for kids with mental illness in Chicago’s Southside public schools. But the truth is, the situation is a lot more complicated than these surface-level issues. In order to understand the challenge, we need to deconstruct the stigma that has oppressed and silenced many. We need to educate ourselves on the causes and effects of mental illness. And we just really need to learn how to be empathetic and learn how to help one another in tough communities like my own.


Click on the video below to learn more about the Southside and the social change needed:





The challenge is that students from different parts of the city treat, and are treated for, differently based on where they grow up. For example, students who live in underfunded neighborhoods do not have the centers or facilities that help with mental health. Unfortunately, because of this weakness in the support system for kids who are undergoing mental illness, the stigma that mental illness is bad and unimportant is reinforced. I identified the challenge through my own experience. Living on the Southside of Chicago, the fact that there was no support for me if I had a mental illness shows that there’s something else needed to be done in these communities to produce a safe and empathetic environment for all youth. My challenge was also identified through my mothers teaching position at a Southside high school. She teaches special education, and she noticed that a lot of kids with mental illnesses in her classes do not have the support at school or at home that is needed for them to be helped. If someone compared mental health and mental illness throughout the city, the Southside and Westside of Chicago would have the highest level of trauma and the more violent mental illnesses. Yet, these same parts of the city tend to get the lowest amount of help. Illinois has also dramatically reduced its mental health budget by $187 million between 2009 and 2013 (1). This significant change has shown us how mental health is way less important to the state than it should be. Through my challenge, I hope to identify some solutions of this unfair treatment within the city.


Click on the video below to learn about similar efforts to help raise awareness on mental illness in Westside communities:


This picture shows the thought process and foundational ideas for some of the reasons the Chicago Youth Take Action group was created. Through the diagram, the general process of making support groups for those who need it is displayed. The group’s major points are to remove stigma through education. The biggest plans are to create programs around the Southside to support those who need it.



Chicago Youth Take Action (CYTA) are still in the early stages of creation. Along with other juniors in my school, and juniors in neighboring private schools, we are in the process of laying out the beginning foundation for this social activism group. Our biggest focus right now is around equalizing education in public schools around the city. Through this goal, my plan is to also spend some time and resources raising awareness of mental health in underdeveloped communities.

So what do you think? At the moment, any input on how to fundraise programs like my own would be helpful. Also, in terms of starting a youth activist group, tips for creating a strong foundation for the organization would be greatly appreciated. But what else can we help with? Or are there other approaches that CYTA can take in order to effectively and efficiently support those who live with mental illness in underserved neighborhoods?




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