The past several years have been rife with tremendous struggle and unrelenting change. Worldwide every citizen battled to survive the deadly Covid 19 pandemic, only to be hit again with the more pervasive Delta variant of the disease. In the U.S., Americans battled with blatant political hostilities and social aggressions. And in cities across the country African Americans struggled to survive – period.
As I continue to hear that the country is working to return to normal, a part of me hopes that we aren’t. There is no un-ringing the bell of these disturbing times, and a return to the status quo doesn’t bode well for Black people overall. Shining a light on the ravages of racism and a return to business as usual after theses unprecedented upheavals, doesn’t eradicate the emotional toll it took on all of us.
The fallout from the tumultuous time of isolation coupled with the atrocities committed against Black people, ultimately brought about a new level of despair and anxiety for millions of Black people.
And well the resulting emotional toll has led to a mental health crisis which crosses racial, ethnic and cultural lines. Black people, in particular face mental health obstacles at a higher rate than other groups and are more impacted by the events of the last year.
The sight of black people being killed with abandon at the hands of police, mass protests, local lockdowns and blaring outcries for justice have taken their toll on minority communities with Black children being hit by the fallout especially hard.
This perfect storm of trauma and distress continues to impact the mental health and emotional wellbeing of nearly 5 million Black Americans, who suffer from acute anxiety, chronic depression, substance abuse and PTSD.
So while we’re trying to get back on steady footing amidst the uncertainty, we won’t know the total cost of the crisis for years and even generations to come.
The Centers for Disease Control released information in May of 2020 that saw a significant increase in the rise of Black men and women (15 percent) admitting they seriously considered suicide that month compared to eight percent of Whites.
The murder of George Floyd and other African Americans at the hands of police shifted the intensity at which our youngest need support. In Detroit not only have Black men and women fallen victim to the maladies of stress, many of our most helpless citizens – children – are in extreme need of treatment.
Kids hear Black Lives Matter, but that is not their real-life experience. What they do see and know innately is that they are many times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police – often unarmed and under precarious circumstances. Subsequently Black youths are experiencing depression and anxiety at unprecedented levels and suicide ideation is occurring at an astounding rate among younger and younger children.
Rather than a return to normal, we need to see our community come together as a whole, to implement mental health and mental wellness initiatives to educate people on what may be happening to them psychologically and assure them that they are not alone in this perilous period in our history. These are painful but enlightening times, not to be forgotten but to be remembered and memorialized, least we return to “the norm” and ignore the lessons we learned.
Hiram Jackson is the CEO & Publisher of Real Times Media, which includes The Michigan Chronicle, a partner in the Word In Black collaborative