Why support girls’ mental health?
In August, the CME Group Foundation announced a new grantmaking strategy with an initial $2 million investment to support young women and girls impacted by trauma and violence in Chicago, so that all of the city’s girls can thrive. Working with community-based partners, school leaders, state-level stakeholders, researchers, and the philanthropic community, the Foundation’s trauma response initiative will:
- Increase girls’ access to trauma-responsive supports in Chicago’s public schools and under-resourced communities, and
- Advance systems, research, and policy change to expand trauma-responsive practices and supports throughout the systems that touch girls and youth.
According to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), over two-thirds of children and adolescents in the U.S. report experiencing trauma by the time they are 16, and the CDC reports that over the past decade teens have consistently reported increases in mental health challenges, experiences of violence, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In Illinois, pre-pandemic data indicated that 40% of youth had experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE), and this figure has most likely risen since COVID-19 drastically increased rates of exposure to stress, trauma, and mental health problems among youth. In Chicago, gun violence is compounding and increasing young people’s exposure to trauma, as 60% of Chicago’s children live in communities where violence is concentrated and 91% of homicides occur. We know that traumatic experiences, and gun violence in particular, negatively impact children’s mental health, feelings of safety, and ability to concentrate — and, in turn, the educational outcomes that have lasting implications for their health, incomes and overall quality of life.
Traumatic experiences do not impact all youth equally, with middle school-age girls—particularly girls of color—facing the biggest risks. The CDC reports that teen girls across the country are "engulfed in a growing wave of violence and trauma" as they face record levels of feeling sad or hopeless and increases in rape and sexual violence. A study from the University of Chicago Education Lab found that "an astonishing 38% of 9th- to 11th-grade adolescent girls in Chicago’s neighborhood schools exhibited signs of PTSD at baseline." Yet while girls are experiencing skyrocketing rates of trauma with lifelong implications, the magnitude of this mental health emergency has not yet created widespread, sustained action and attention. Moreover, philanthropic funding for girls who have experienced trauma continues to take a backseat to interventions targeted at boys and young men, whose trauma is more visible because it often manifests as violent or disruptive behavior. While girls’ pain often remains hidden, the community leaders and mental health providers working on the frontlines with youth are sounding the alarm that Chicago’s girls unquestionably need more trauma-responsive support.
Jamila Trimuel, Founder of Ladies of Virtue, commented, "Ladies of Virtue has centered mental health as a key priority since our founding 12 years ago. Over the years, our LOV sisters have expressed that they are struggling with communicating with their parents, having difficulties navigating social media, relationships, and also friendships. They have also mentioned that they have a sense of anxiety as they move toward life after high-school. As such, as the number of girls we served increased from 365 in 2022 to 505 in 2023, so has our mental health programming. We are a proud recipient of CME Group Foundation's grant award. With this investment, we will expand our mental health programming in the schools, serve more girls and hire an additional staff member. We will also host more parent mental health workshops. When you invest in girls from under-resourced communities, you are also building up their families and communities, which have too often lacked the proper resources for girls to grow and thrive."
Working with community-based partners, school leaders, state-level stakeholders, researchers, and the philanthropic community, CME Group Foundation’s newest initiative will advance solutions that increase girls’ access to trauma-responsive supports in Chicago’s public schools and under-resourced communities, while also advancing systems and policy change to expand trauma-responsive practices and support throughout the systems that touch girls and youth.
Standing side-by-side with our partners, CME Group Foundation is eager to pursue and advance innovative, evidence-based solutions that move the needle for Chicago’s adolescent girls.
Congratulations to the portfolio’s first cohort of grantees:
- Children’s Research Triangle
- Focus Fairies
- Girls Inc. of Chicago
- Juvenile Protective Association
- Ladies of Virtue
- Polished Pebbles
- Union League Boys and Girls Club
- Youth Guidance