By Charlene Muhammad | California Black Media
The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the health, finances and mobility of people around the world, affecting nearly everyone on the planet.
Young people, in particular, have seen a slight increase in mental health cases, including depression, in a trend that U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy calls an emerging crisis.
On December 7th, Murthy posted a 42-page health notice draw the country’s attention to the “urgent” need to help young people with mental health problems. He said one in three students in the United States report experiencing prolonged periods of sadness and hopelessness. This number represents a 40% increase from 2009 to 2019.
The pandemic has worsened these conditions.
“The future well-being of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation,” said Murthy. “Especially right now, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can come out stronger on the other side. This advice shows us how we can all come out. working together to help our children during this double crisis. ”
Recently, a panel of experts addressed the issue during a press briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services entitled “The heavy toll of the pandemic on adolescent mental health”.
Michelle Cabrera, Executive Director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA), highlighted the health needs of minority youth. She explained that across the country – and in California – young people are suffering from a mental health crisis, leading to a growing number of suicides and high levels of anxiety in schools.
“The number of children and young people experiencing acute mental health crises has doubled and sometimes tripled. We have had children as young as 8 years old who have been hospitalized with suicidal ideation, ”Cabrera said.
Behavioral health experts say students’ transition to in-person learning results in higher rates of children and youth experiencing mental health crises, she said.
According to Cabrera, existing programs lack support for young people from black and indigenous populations, and records show that significant disparities are also present among professionals in the field of behavioral health.
“For example, access to services and programs that can be used in white communities to address mental health issues are not available in black communities,” she said.
Cabrera mentioned that there is also a career crisis in behavioral health and that by 2022 these benefits will be in place to help ease the jobs crisis in California and across the country.
“The pandemic has also changed the statistics on drug addiction and drug addiction in America,” Cabrera continued. “The data showed an increase in alcohol and opioid use among young people, who also experience significantly more overdoses due to their use of fentanyl in the drugs used,” she said.
Young people also struggle with physically going back to school, bullying, and a lack of programs to deal with their mental health issues.
Dr. Latonya Wood is Director of Clinical Education at Pepperdine University in Malibu. She looked specifically at data on black children with mental health issues. She explained that depression is expressed and understood differently among black people.
For example, young black men interpret their emotions and mental state differently. They may not act in a way typically associated with depression, such as sadness or melancholy. Black youth typically translate these emotions into aggression and more physical reactions.
Additionally, the pandemic has amplified some of the disconnections within the black community, Dr Wood said. She explained that there has not been constant help from public health agencies that serve black communities.
“Rarely is there a link with the black community. So African Americans are going to run out of resources because they don’t know how to reach them, ”she said.
Wood has said that historically black people have had no reason to fully trust mental health care providers. A recent poll asked a group of black youth about mental health care during COVID. He revealed that black youth don’t feel like mental health providers are looking after them, that they just want money, and that they don’t understand lived experiences, according to Dr Wood.
“I think this really reflects the lack of culturally informed and trauma-informed care and truly understanding that the experiences of black youth have been traumatic in some ways during COVID,” said Wood. “
More and more black people are looking for black providers, but they make up just under about 4% of psychologists in America, according to a 2020 Workforce Study, conducted by the American Psychological Association, has she continued.
As a result, black people typically experience long wait times before even being seen by a therapist or receiving treatment. Wood stressed that it is very important to find the right care for people with mental disorders in the black community.
Solutions to these problems have been suggested at the level of community care provided in places where people congregate such as school, church and barber shop, among others. These spaces can serve as supportive places where mental health care or interventions can be accessed.
“Young people need support systems in place to help them guard against the extreme negative effects that accompany poor mental health,” said Wood.