By Paula Penebaker
People have been facing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including loneliness, isolation, missed milestones and increased anxiety. In addition, there are disparities in health care, such as access to health insurance and socio-economic pressures, that put Black people at even greater risk for trauma, grief and other mental health issues.
The We Can Do This campaign recently hosted a virtual event titled, “Mental Wealth: COVID’s impact on Mental Health in the Black Community.” This FREE, interactive event was hosted on Zoom and streamed live on Facebook April 28.
The format offered a safe space to share lived experiences and discuss best practices to help Black families survive and thrive during COVID-19 and beyond. Additionally, speakers explored COVID-19 vaccine education and access.
The event featured a panel of trusted Black doctors who shared information on the intersection of COVID-19 and mental wellness. They included Dr. Samira L. Brown, Primary Care Pediatrician; Dr. Kendall Jasper, Psychologist; and Dr. Byron Jasper, Primary Care Physician served as panelists.
Below you will find some helpful tips these experts shared. The event replay is currently available on YouTube.
1) Listen to Medical Experts: Trusted sources are often drowned out by the voices of celebrities, friends, athletes, social media influencers and others. Go with the advice of medical professionals, people who have years of education, licenses, and professional experience. When in need of service providers, every state has a licensing board(s) and national organizations of Black professionals such as social workers, doctors, attorneys, etc. where people can find providers.
2) Honesty is the Best Policy: Parents need to know it’s ok to tell their children when they’re struggling with anxiety or depression. When parents are forthright, it lets their children know it’s ok when they feel the same way. Also, when parents don’t feel physically well for several days, they may want their children to know that, and let them know they’re going to see a doctor. That level of communication lets children know it is smart to seek help. It sets a good example.
3) Check on the Children: Children experienced higher rates of anxiety and depression over the last 10 years even before COVID-19 and during the pandemic, many who live in multigenerational households, have lost a primary caretaker during as a result of the virus.
Children need to know they can talk to their parents or other trusted adults about how they are feeling about school, relationships, loneliness, etc. Pediatricians can screen for mental health issues and make referrals when needed. Also, parents need to be mindful of exposure to screen time, social media and other things that could contribute to anxiety.
4) Ask for Help: While cultural representation is not what it should be, there are far more resources available today than in the past. Primary Care physicians can help with an array of concerns such as how to pay for services, tips on healthy habits that can prevent illness, and other useful information. It’s important to be proactive and forthcoming about concerns and ask questions.
About the Panel of Experts:
Dr. Samira L. Brown is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the National Medical Association. She earned her medical degree at Harvard Medical School and completed her internship and residency in pediatrics at Boston Children’s. During the pandemic she co-founded Little Lives PPE (personal protective equipment) with two friends, another doctor and an attorney to develop practical and effective tools to help keep children and families safe. Dr. Brown has been listed as one of the Best Doctors in America® and has served as a medical expert on local and national media outlets including the TODAY show and NBC Nightly News.
Dr. Byron Jasper is the Founder and CEO of the Byja Clinic, a primary care practice in Baton Rouge, LA. He is a proud alumnus of Xavier University of Louisiana. He received his medical degree from Tulane School of Medicine and his master’s degree from Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Jasper completed his family medicine residency at Baton Rouge General (BRG) Family Medicine Residency Program (FMRP) and followed this by completing two fellowships in Community Health Leadership Development at Georgetown University and HIV and Hepatitis C in Primary Care at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Kendall Jasper is a clinical psychologist in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Kendell Jasper holds his Ph.D. and M.A. in Clinical Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He received his B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
His professional experience includes Community Mental Health – Outpatient treatment of individuals, families, and group therapy for various rural and urban populations; substance abuse treatment for adolescents and adults; Anger management and Behavior Management Training for adults and families. He is passionate about serving populations that underutilize mental health services.
Paula Penebaker is a member of the Public Relations Team for Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the Cobb Institute.