Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Dealing with Mental Health Amongst Black Americans During the Pandemic
Mental Health Disparities
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are many health disparities for Black communities who have unequal access to health care due to both social and economic factors. Blacks also have substantially lower access to receiving mental health services. And due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many treatments have been cut back, clinics have closed down, and support groups have ceased from meeting in person.
Many Black Americans are also highly represented as essential workers who have to face high risks of exposure to the virus. Furthermore, because they have to work in health care or transportation, they tend to take public transportation more. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, Blacks are accounted for over 18% of overall deaths, even though they represent only 12.5% of the U.S. population. The Black population is thereby vulnerable to mental health issues when seeing their communities get hard hit by the pandemic. Furthermore, rising unemployment and vast instances of police brutality against Blacks adds on to the added stress and anxiety that Black Americans are already facing during this global crisis.
Treating Mental Health Issues
There are several ways to boost Black Americans’ mental health during COVID-19, including the following:
Provide mental health support and assistance: Even if certain clinics do not allow walk-ins, they should offer virtual and telehealth options for Black patients. Insurance agencies should also provide coverage for these visits. Moreover, it is essential to have bilingual health care professionals and translators to assist with understanding health care protocol such as treatment plans and policies. Furthermore, providing support groups and outreach engagement can encourage Blacks to speak with others going through similar situations and find solace during such challenging times.
Give technological tools: In order to have these telehealth conferences, or attend valuable workshops. or have families engage in remote learning for school, Black families need to have access to devices and high-speed internet. While some places such as work companies or public schools are offering iPads or laptops that already come with data plans for free, not everyone has access to these resources. Accommodations need to be met to provide tools to set people up for success when it comes to participating in video conferences or speaking to a therapist online.
Partner with local communities and leaders: Faith-based leaders and other places of worship can offer information and support to Black communities. They can also address mental health promotion and provide varying services. Furthermore, ethnic specific community-based organizations often give multiple services that extend to mental health care. They also tend to collaborate with local schools, businesses, and hospitals. Lastly, it is essential to know who the first-responders in each community are, be able to meet them, and rely on them in case an emergency arises.
Open communication and public awareness: Continue to translate updated public health issues on a rapid basis. Make sure all health concepts are understandable and relatable across cultures. Appropriately tailor messages and reach out to trusted public figures to spread the word. Give information about free COVID-19 testing, what to do if a fever develops, and how to stimulate the mind and reduce stress.
Educate on preserving mental clarity: There needs to be more workshops, meetings, and people talking about practicing self-care. Especially during this pandemic, people have been watching countless hours of videos on social media and news reports that only heighten anxiety levels. Instead, communities should be encouraged to meditate, engage in hobbies, listen to soothing music, be physically active, and journal their thoughts. Tips like these can allow people to take care of themselves and take personal timeouts to not burn out or feel so overwhelmed all the time.
It is currently an extremely challenging time, and there are many uncertainties for the upcoming future. Nonetheless, there are many ways for Black Americans to boost their mental health and receive support.
To learn more about COVID-19 and to get up to date information on cases, testing sites and other resources visit coronavirus.dc.gov