Black Children And Mental Health: Why Normal Development Is Greatly Threatened During This Abnormal Time
The interruption of social support systems and the disturbance in routines serve as imposing barriers to mental wellness for Black children and families, at a time when they need it most.
October 09, 2020 at 6:11 pm
The recent flood of news about the targeting and killing of innocent Black people has been despicable, tragic and heartbreaking — yet for me, as a young Black woman born and raised in this country, unsurprising. I have grown up in a society that has routinely devalued, demonized and subjugated Black bodies. Less than 50 years ago, my own parents were forced to abide by Jim Crow laws, state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation. When they had children (me and my two older brothers), they sat us down and instructed us on how to act around white people and, importantly, around the police. They had to teach us that we would be instantly judged as a threat due to the color of our skin — no matter how many degrees we have or achievements we accomplish.
Research has shown that the chronic stress brought on by acts of racism manifests in worse physical and mental health for Black people, from higher rates of chronic diseases to an overall shorter life expectancy. Now, in addition to the traumatic stressors of racism, Black children in this country right now are facing an unprecedented challenge to their mental health.
Many are referring to this period in time as a “double pandemic” for Black people, as Black lives are being threatened not only by the novel coronavirus pandemic, but also by race-based violence and police brutality — a pervasive, persistent, chronic pandemic. This double pandemic threatens the mental health of Black families, and importantly, Black children who are attempting to learn, play, grow and develop normally during this abnormal time. As a Black female public health professional and resident physician in pediatrics, I fear for the long-term impact of this time both personally and professionally.