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Pandemic Takes Heavy Toll on Children’s Mental Health |

Posted by Charlene Muhammed | California Black Media

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a huge toll on the health, finances, and mobility of people around the world, affecting nearly every person on the planet.

Young people, in particular, are experiencing a slight increase in mental health conditions, including depression, in a trend US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy describes as an emerging crisis.

On December 7, Murthy released a 42-page health advice that drew the country’s attention to the “urgent” need to help young people facing mental health issues. He said 1 in 3 students in the United States say they have gone through sustained periods of sadness and despair. This number represents a 40% increase from 2009 to 2019.

The pandemic has made those conditions worse.

“The future well-being of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation,” Murthy said. “Especially at this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variable, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side. This how-to guide shows us how we can work together to step up for our children during this dual crisis.”

Recently, a panel of experts addressed the issue during a news brief organized by Ethnic Media Services titled “The Impact of the Heavy Epidemic on Adolescent Mental Health.”

Michelle Cabrera, executive director of the County Behavioral Health Managers Association (CBHDA), highlighted the health needs of minority youth. She explained that young people across the country — and in California — are experiencing a mental health crisis, leading to increased numbers of suicides and high levels of anxiety in schools.

“The number of children and young adults in acute mental health crises has doubled and sometimes tripled. We’ve had children as young as 8 who have been hospitalized with suicidal ideation,” Cabrera said.

Behavioral health experts said bringing students back into personal learning leads to higher rates of children and young adults experiencing mental health crises, she said.

According to Cabrera, current programs lack support for Indigenous and Indigenous youth, and records show that significant disparities also exist between behavioral health professionals.

“For example, access to services and programs that can be used in white communities to combat mental health problems is not available in black communities,” she said.

Cabrera stated that there is also an occupational behavioral health crisis, and that by 2022, these benefits will be in place to help alleviate the employment crisis in California and across the country.

“The pandemic has also changed the statistics on drug and drug abuse in America,” Cabrera continued. “The data showed an increase in the consumption of alcohol and opioids in young people, who also experience significantly more overdoses due to their consumption of fentanyl in the drugs used,” she said.

Young people also struggle with physical back-to-school, bullying, and a lack of programs to address their mental health issues.

Dr. Latonia Wood is the Director of Clinical Training at Pepperdine University in Malibu. I specifically delved into data on black children with mental health issues. She explained that depression is expressed and understood differently among blacks.

For example, black youth interpret their feelings and mental states differently. They may not act in ways usually associated with depression, such as sadness or depression. Black youth usually translate those feelings into aggressiveness and more physical reactions.

Additionally, the pandemic has amplified some of the interruptions in the black community, Dr. Wood said. She explained that there was no consistent assistance in public health organizations serving black communities.

There is rarely an association with the black community. So African Americans will lack the resources because they don’t know how to reach them.

Historically, Wood said, blacks had no reason to fully trust mental health providers. A recent survey asked a group of black youth about mental health care during COVID. It found that black youths do not feel cared for by their mental health care providers, they only want money, and they do not understand lived experiences, according to Dr. Wood.

“I think this really reflects the lack of culturally informed, trauma-informed care, and real understanding of the experiences of black youth in some ways that have been traumatic during COVID,” Wood said.

More blacks are looking for black providers, but they number just under about 4% of psychologists in America, according to the 2020 Workforce Study, completed by the American Psychological Association.

As a result, blacks typically experience long waiting periods to be seen by a therapist or to receive care. Wood stressed that finding appropriate care for people dealing with mental disorders in the black community is very important.

Solutions to these problems have been suggested at the level of community care provided in places where people congregate such as school, church and barbershop, 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 protect against the severe negatives that come with poor mental health,” Wood said.

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