Last week we heard from two incredible parents who shared their stories with us on how raising black children in today's society has taken a psychological toll on them. Both George Flemming and Melodie Jackson gave us insights on what it is like to have a pit in your stomach every time their children step out into the world, and what kind of lessons they have had to teach their children that white parents do not have to tackle. This week we wanted to offer our members and our readers a wide array of resources that help to further the conversation about race in the United States. Flemming touched on the very important idea that race must continue to be talked about well past the murder of George Floyd. We at PA Parent and Family Alliance want to continue to educate ourselves as well as connect our readers with resources that can help and educate them.
Fostering an environment of diversity and inclusion is at the core of our mission and is vital to making sure that every parent that lands on our website and social media pages feel supported and understood. Families come in all shapes and sizes, all races, sexual orientations, gender identifies, socio-economic backgrounds, and family structures. We see “family” as someone who is or has been the primary caregiver of a child or young adult who has social, emotional, behavioral, or mental health challenges. “Families” may include birth parents, adoptive parents, divorced parents, and step-parents alike. In addition, two-mom families, two-dad families, single-parent families, blended families, foster families, guardians, and families in which a grandparent is a primary caregiver also make up our definition of family.
We warmly welcome all families inclusively and openly.
The resources in this article touch upon; mental health stigmas in the black community, organizations that focus on prioritizing mental health in the community, and some tips on how to talk to your children about race, particularly children with a social, emotional, behavioral or mental health challenge.
Stigmas in the black community
Last week Flemming explained the fact that institutionalized racism has a massively negative impact on the mental health of black in general, but especially in black youth. Jackson agreed wholeheartedly with this statement when thinking about how she has witnessed a decline in her own son's self-esteem due to the fact that he is seen by the world as a threat and many people judge him based on his skin color, not his musical talent, or kind heart. Depression and anxiety are on the rise, however, culturally mental health is talked about less in the black community, and many times mental health challenges are seen as merely a personal weakness. This causes individuals to internalize their mental health challenges rather than seeking the help they need. Hear from mental health therapist; Chante Meadows about this stigma.
Religion, long-standing cultural ideals, and a general mistrust of health care professionals all play a hand in why black individuals tend to not seek the mental health treatment that they need. Hear from two doctors about how they have been trying to get into churches and instill the idea that mental health is a real issue that needs to be talked about and cannot simply be "prayed away."
Finding a culturally competent provider
Connecting with your therapist is essential to any mental health journey being a positive one. According to NAMI.org "Cultural competence is a doctor’s ability to recognize and understand the role culture (yours and the doctors) plays in treatment and to adapt to this reality to meet your needs," they encourage black community members to not be scared to ask questions to ensure that you get the best possible care that you can. Their recommended questions include:
"Have you treated other African Americans?
Have you received training in cultural competence or on African American mental health?
How do you see our cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment?
How do you plan to integrate my beliefs and practices in my treatment?"
There are a number of black-owned and operated services that recognize the importance of finding a culturally competent therapist. One of them is called therapyforblackgirls.com. "Therapy for Black Girls is an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of black women and girls.".
"National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN) is a healing justice organization committed to transforming mental health for queer and trans people of color (QTPoC). We work at the intersection of movements for social justice and the field of mental health to integrate healing justice into both of these spaces. Our overall goal is to increase access to healing justice resources for QTPoC."
Sister Afya's mission is; sustaining the mental wellness of black women through building community, sharing information, and connecting black women to quality mental wellness services. We believe that by making mental wellness simple, accessible, affordable, and centered around black women's experiences, more people will get what they need to have a full, whole life.
How to talk to your children about race
Talking about race can be uncomfortable. But as both Flemming and Jackson mentioned; we cannot let that stop us from talking about it, especially with our children. Antiracist ideals must start at young ages and be instilled upon children around a dinner table throughout their childhood. As a parent raising a child with social, emotional, behavioral, or mental challenges you may be hesitant to add another stressor to your child on top of their daily schedules being interrupted by COVID19 and the anxiety that has been associated with the pandemic. However, it is more important than ever to sit down with your children and have an open and honest conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement. They are most likely seeing everything unfolding on the news and social media and need a safe place to ask questions and be taught early lessons of love and equality. You know your child and what ways they consume information and learn the best. Present the topic of race to them in a way that will make sense to them.
The bottom line is; don't be scared to talk about race. Show your children that people of many different backgrounds are all around you and they are all equal. Offer a safe place for them to ask questions and help them to clear up any confusion. Above all know that your children are always watching you. Lead by example and show them that you have the utmost love and respect for people of all races and that you are not afraid to continue to educate yourself and stand up for those who need you.