Mighty Blog

Helping African American kids and teens with mental health

“The need for mental health services for children and families is greater now than it has been for quite some time.”

This is especially true for African Americans, according to Dr. Jason Walker, child psychologist at Children’s Minnesota. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many racial disparities, and other events during the summer of 2020, like the death of George Floyd, further highlighted systemic racism in the United States.

Our message to African American youth

What are the mental health impacts of COVID-19?

The rates of anxiety, depression and suicide for African American children and teens have been rising in the last few years. This upward trend has continued as the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted our lives and limited our social activities.

The rate at which African American families seek and use mental health care and treatment is much lower than the rate that of white families, which is concerning to pediatricians and mental health professionals like Dr. Walker. Some of the barriers to accessing mental health care include:

  • Stigma about mental health.
  • Fears about health care and mental health care systems.
  • Parental mental health struggles.
  • Lack of knowledge and access to resources.

Tips to help children and teens with mental health issues

Breaking the stigma

There is still a lot of stigma associated with seeking mental health care. Try to be careful with your words and not to use the word “mental” or “crazy” when talking about emotional distress or problems in response to stressful or traumatic life events.

Accessing support

Access to many community-based support systems—religious leaders, family members and other community support systems—may have been disrupted due to the pandemic, so parents may not know where to turn. In addition to seeking support from a health care provider, families can try connecting with support systems online or in-person while wearing masks and social distancing. Access Children’s Minnesota’s resources here: Behavioral Health Support Hub.

Take care of your own mental health

Part of being the best parent you can be is looking after yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling with mental health.

Mental health resources

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, Children’s Minnesota behavioral health specialists are here for you. You can find help on the Children’s Minnesota Behavior Health Support Hub: Living Now.

Additional resources:

Kaitlyn Kamleiter