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Mental health epidemic in communities of color


By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY, February 26, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Communities of color face a growing wave of mental health issues due to how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people interact and cry, experts warn .

“We are on the verge of having a mental health epidemic because of COVID,” said Vickie Mays, professor of health policy and director of the Center for Research, Education, Training and Strategic Communication. UCLA on Minority Health Disparities, During an HDLive! interview.

Mays said mood disorders, drug addiction and suicides were on the rise in racial and ethnic communities in the United States, in part due to the social isolation needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Think what it’s like to be Black or Latinx, to lose someone in your family, and you can’t give them the homecoming celebration. It’s a pain and a heartache that people are not recovering, ”Mays said. “Knowing that your mother has done all she can and here you have to do this thing online, where her friends can’t be there with her and comfort her children, it leaves a very deep heartache and hurt in people. which we need. to be addressed soon. “

Tasha Clark-Amar, CEO of the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, said in the same interview that Louisiana families are no longer able to come together after a funeral for communion at a dinner “where you get together and you say goodbye.

“These were removed and it was detrimental to the community for sure,” Clark-Amar said.

Urban communities are particularly susceptible to a resurgence of mood disorders and substance abuse, given they have been subjected to some of the worst waves of COVID-19 cases in the country, said Dr Allison Navis. She is a mental health specialist and director of the Neurology Clinic at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

“A lot of our patients who were sick in March or April, even though they had a milder infection, it was a very scary time here in the city,” Navis said. “Maybe they were alone in their apartments and hospitals overwhelmed and hearing ambulances outside and so a lot of patients were really scared of whether they would survive this. It absolutely affected them and caused them to have depression or anxiety or PTSD.

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Separation distress, dysfunctional bereavement and post-traumatic stress disorder also interfere with the daily lives of many Americans who have lost a loved one to COVID, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

“Existing research shows that the grief over deaths during the pandemic was felt more keenly than that which followed both pre-pandemic deaths and deaths from other natural causes,” said the author of the study Lauren Breen, associate professor at Curtin University in Perth, Australia academic press release.

“This exacerbation of grief is due to necessary restrictions that affect people’s access to dying loved ones, limit their participation in important rituals like funerals, and reduce the physical social support they would otherwise receive from friends and family.” , explained Breen.

Grievers need to receive better support even before their friends and relatives die, while the sick are in hospice care, Breen said. In particular, the United States needs more grief counselors to help people cope with their loss.

Mays expects social organizations in various communities to provide the bulk of the help people will need as a result of the pandemic.

“It reminds me of when I worked in New Orleans for [Hurricane] Katrina, “Mays said.” It will be the community agencies that are going to have to engage in community rituals and processes where they put in place support mechanisms for people to register. “

In one example, organizers in Austin, Texas asked an artist to create a community mural to commemorate those who had died from COVID, said Jill Ramirez, executive director of the Latino HealthCare Forum in Austin.

“By that time, nearly 300 people had passed. We put the number on the mural, how many people had died, and we invited the community to come and have a vigil, ”said Ramirez.

“I think we need to do more of this stuff so that we can really help people cry,” Ramirez said. “Right now I think people are just trying to take care of themselves the best they can.”

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More information

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is becoming more dedicated to dealing with grief and loss during the pandemic.

SOURCES: Tasha Clark-Amar, CEO, East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, Louisiana; Jill Ramirez, Executive Director, Latino HealthCare Forum, Austin, Texas; Vickie Mays, PhD, professor, health policy, and director, UCLA Center on Research, Education, Training and Strategic Communication on Minority Health Disparities, Los Angeles; Allison Navis, MD, clinical director of neurology, Icahn School of Medicine in Mount Sinai, New York City; Curtin University, press release, February 25, 2021

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