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Communities United & Lurie Children’s Partnership

In February 2022, a youth-led organization in Chicago released a research report in which young men of color surveyed their peers on their mental health and the obstacles keeping them from getting help. The report was eye-opening not just because of its results — the inequality and the pandemic worsened the mental health of many young men of color — but how the report came about and its future effects on a nationally prominent children’s hospital.

The young researchers were members of Ujima, a youth-led project in partnership with Communities United, who had received research training from the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in order to conduct the surveys and interviews. As a partner in this report, Lurie Children’s learned that changing its systemic approach could improve mental health institutions’ acceptance among young black men. Thinkinc. is proud to have played a lead role in publicizing this report.

This crucial project is an important lesson. The power of democracy rests with the people. The people who gather in communities know what they need to thrive, they are the experts. Unfortunately, institutions don’t recognize that kind of expertise because it doesn’t come with a diploma. But communities and the institutions they rely on can find a way to serve each other. It starts when institutions actually listen to the people and work with them as partners to deliver the services they need.

Thinkinc. was a reflection of the partnership between our client, Communities United, and Lurie Children’s, and we worked hand in glove with the hospital’s communications team on the release of this report. We advised our client on how to position this report in conjunction with Lurie Children’s to further raise the institutions’ profiles, highlight their partnership, and increase their ability to influence public policymakers and other institutional mental health providers..

In strategizing the release of the report, we recommended a high-level convening at which CU and Lurie Children’s would invite policymakers and peers in the mental health field. The idea was to highlight the power behind the voices of these young men of color, power that can shape institutional change. We worked in partnership with CU and Lurie Children’s to gather influential parties and journalists so they could understand the power of these youths’ findings and the potential for their recommendations to make real, systemic institutional change.

The result: A hybrid event that attracted a large in-person and virtual turnout of journalists from TV, print and online. They produced voluminous coverage, listed below, that was equal to about $150,000 in ad spending. Media reports also appeared on radio station WBEZ, WVON, Univision and were carried across Illinois and the nation by outlets that reprinted the Chicago Tribune article. Communities United’s social media engagement skyrocketed 6,000 percent, meaning our client will get long-lasting exposure for other projects they are working to publicize.

It was an honor to work with Communities United in their partnership with Lurie Children’s and their stakeholders on the timing and structure of the report release and made sure journalists knew beforehand that this was not an ordinary topic: This was a momentous example of a community and an internationally regarded institution sharing expertise, leading to institutional change.

We hope this moment leads communities to have a larger say among the institutions they rely on, and hope it leads institutions to re-evaluate the way they listen to and serve communities.

ABC-7 Chicago | February 21, 2022: A new study showed that normalizing trauma leads to worsened mental health in young Black and Brown men

CBS-2 Chicago | February 21, 2022: Study Shows Trauma, Inequality Leading To Mental Health Challenges For Young Men Of Color In Chicago

Crain’s Chicago Business | February 21, 2022: Chicago youth on Chicago youth: Mental trauma is real

Fox-32 Chicago | February 21, 2022: New Chicago study focuses on mental health of young men of color

Chicago Tribune | February 21, 2022: Chicago’s mental health resources for young Black and brown men need an overhaul — and a group of them are researching how to do it

WBBM Newsradio | February 21, 2022: New research shows trauma and inequity created worsening mental health for Chicago’s young men of color