Black youth are facing more mental health concerns than ever. As adults, it’s important to listen to them and direct them on how to seek help.
Being young can be very challenging and life choices can impact the mental health of any child.
The Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey(Trusted Source) shows that 44% of teens report “persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness.”
Despite this, a 2013 review (Trusted Source) noted that Black children in the United States are not as likely to be diagnosed with mental health conditions.
Also, Black teens with mental health conditions are less likely to seek treatment, though they’re more likely to experience higher rates of depressive moods, according to a 2019 study.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has both helped and hindered this statistic.
While the state of Black youth and their mental health seem discouraging, there are ways you can help.
How adults can help.
Black children can encounter a high amount of mental stress, so it’s important to let them know they’re not alone and that someone is willing to step in and help them.
Talk with your children.
Try to discuss with your children regularly, giving them a safe space to express themselves and validate their feelings and experiences. This will also give you time to watch for any signs of distress.
According to Mental Health America, some signs to look out for to know if a child may be having mental health challenges can include:
• problems with concentration or memory
• appetite changes
• feelings of sadness, emptiness, or worthlessness
• extreme panic or worry
• restlessness or change in sleeping habits
• loss of interest in hobbies or activities
• hearing or seeing things that others don’t or new, repetitive behaviors
Some behaviors may signal more serious mental health complications, such as suicidal thoughts. These can include:
• obsession with the subject of death
• increased use of drugs and alcohol or other risky behaviors
• little or no interest in the future
• drastic changes in personality
Have open conversations about seeking help
Having open conversations concerning mental health and leaving room for your child to ask questions about how they’re feeling is crucial.
Conversations could be about mental health itself, or they may be about factors that cause mental health challenges, such as racism. And try not to be afraid to ask your child the hard questions, such as if they’re having thoughts of suicide.
When speaking with your child, try to be empathetic and reinforce that their feelings aren’t their fault and that there’s nothing wrong with experiencing negative mental health symptoms.
Try to encourage seeking outside help and, if possible, destigmatize the idea of seeking therapy and treatment.
Seek culturally competent therapists
If your child needs therapy, consider seeking a culturally competent therapist equipped to address their mental health concerns about their identity.
When looking for a culturally competent therapist, the National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends keeping these questions in mind:
• Is this therapist familiar with your child’s culture, beliefs, and values?
• Are they willing to learn more about your child’s culture, beliefs, and values?
• Do they have experience treating patients with your child’s cultural background?
• Have they had cultural competency training?
• How do they plan to include cultural aspects in therapy sessions and plans?
• Are they familiar with your child’s language or dialect?