A recent study from the Born This Way Foundation shows that kindness is crucial to young people but white kids are more likely to experience it than their non-white counterparts.

By Zara Hanawalt
May 06, 2021
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With everything that's been going on in the world, we're finally opening our eyes to the idea that, when it comes to mental health, people of all ages are at risk. We've long ignored the mental health issues that plague children, teens, and young people (because contrary to popular belief, you don't need to have "adult responsibilities" in order to understand stress)and we need to do better for them. And now, survey results from the Born This Way Foundation (which was co-founded by Lady Gaga and her mother) are revealing one crucial way we can do that.

The survey, which was conducted in early 2021, took into account answers from over 2,000 people between the ages of 13 and 24 in the United States. The responses reveal something interesting (though not terribly surprising). That kindness has the power to boost mental wellness among young people, and that factors like race, sexual orientation, and gender can deeply influence how much kindness a young person receives.

An image of a mom and her teenage daughters.
Credit: Getty Images.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents reported that receiving kindness would improve their mental well-being, whether that kindness comes from others or from themselves. But being on the receiving end isn't the only thing that matters: Nearly the same percentage of respondents said their mental health would improve if they were to witness kindness in the world around them. Now, kindness can take on many forms, but according to the respondents, having someone listen to them when they have a problem, believe in them, or check in to make sure they're okay are examples of acts that would improve their mental well-being.

The harsh reality is this, according to the survey's results: White youth appear more likely to experience or witness kindness as compared to their non-white counterparts. "White youth are far more likely to have someone who believes in them and encourages them to do their best, goes out of their way to show they care, or listens when they have a problem," the survey's summary reads.

While the survey looked at a small sample size of transgender and non-binary youth, one thing emerged: The act of using someone's proffered pronouns can have a major impact on that person's mental well-being.

Here's what the study reveals about how young people are feeling mentally right now: Only about 19 percent of respondents say they're coping "very well," while 56 percent say they're doing "somewhat well." And not surprisingly, the people who feel they're doing well from a mental health standpoint tend to be the ones who witness kindness regularly.

So let's take these findings as yet another reason to reach out to young people (both in and out of our own families) to help them with their problems, check in on them, and honor their identities. And let's be especially mindful of the well-being of people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities while we do so.