The first week of Feb 2021 is the first week of Black History Month, National Children's Mental Health Week, and National School Counselors Week.
As a Black Woman who also works as a counselor at a middle school and consistently advocates for and educates on children's mental health, this week is important to me.
So, it is only right to talk about the mental health of black children.
Mental health in the black community is already moving from taboo to a hot topic but I feel that we are still leaving out the babies.
Over the course of this week I will be blogging about various issues within these parameters: what the issues are, what I have witnessed, and what we can do to make a change.
A major part of the issue in every area that I have worked is acknowledgment. Today, I will speak on the acknowledgment in families, tomorrow we will discuss acknowledgment in schools so be sure to come back for the next post.
Lets first talk about the acknowledgment in families. One of the most difficult parts of helping children of color as a therapist/school counselor was getting the family to buy in. I understand why, but even as a black therapist I struggled with even getting families on the phone, let alone, getting them to sign forms agreeing for their child to receive services.
One particular guardian stands out in my mind when I think about these issues. A student of mine was really struggling with his behaviors at school. We had identified some traumas including both parents being out of the home and living with another relative. I loved working with this student. He was bright, witty, smart, and one of the sweetest kids I had ever met. I finally got his guardian to come meet with me and as I was talking I could see his concern all over his face so I just said it, "him receiving these services does not mean he is crazy". That broke the ice and his concern turned to relief.
Black families have been receiving inaccurate information about mental health for so long that it is holding our families back.
I hate to say it but with black families many do not buy in until you bring up that they can get "a check" for having a diagnosis. I understand the thought process and the need, however, what are we teaching our children when that is the main concern?
Often times when families begin to get these social security checks for a child, the child becomes dependent on that resource. If you are not familiar with how receiving social security works, adults are only allowed to work part time or less while receiving benefits. It becomes ingrained in their minds that they are "crazy" and unable to work a regular job, they get fearful of earning less than their fixed income (even though they can go on to successfully earn way more money and the amount received is barely a livable wage and keeps them in poverty), and live the rest of their life stuck depending on a system that does not give two flips about them. This is a damaging mindset to teach at such young ages.
Now, let me say that I do agree that there are some children and families that this resource does benefit. However, we have to start looking at the long run and what we are instilling in them. Some parents would only meet with me because they thought I would write a letter to the social security office stating that their child needed the benefits but did not understand the seriousness behind a child being so severely, emotionally disturbed that they would qualify.
I say all of the time - it all starts at home.
No one cares about us the way that we do and we have to get it in our head that we have to start taking care of ourselves and each other in every way.
Children's mental health matters.