Research has shown that the pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health overall. The stress and trauma of living through COVID-19 may have exacerbated existing mental health conditions or led to the development of new ones.
Additionally, those who have experienced painful life experiences in the past may be more vulnerable to the ongoing mental toll of the pandemic. There is currently no specific research on the long-term mental health effects of COVID-19 on Black children and adolescents. However, it’s important to recognise the potential impact of the pandemic on their mental well-being and take proactive steps to support them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of children and young people worldwide.
In particular, the mental health of young people from Black and mixed-ethnic groups has been adversely affected. According to a UK-based survey of parents/carers and adolescents aged 11–16 years, the pandemic and associated restrictions led to an increased prevalence of mental health problems. Additionally, ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with higher risks of dying from COVID-19 than the white British majority of comparable age.
What factors contribute to the mental health of Black youth?
The mental health of young people is influenced by various factors, including social and economic factors, cultural factors, access to healthcare, and exposure to trauma. In the case of Black youth, these factors can be compounded by systemic racism and discrimination.
Racism and discrimination also have a significant impact on the mental health of Black youth.
Research shows that experiences of racism can lead to poor mental health outcomes, including depression and anxiety. Discrimination can also lead to social exclusion, which can have a negative impact on mental health. Additionally, Black youth may face discrimination in education and employment, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and frustration.
Exposure to trauma is also a significant contributor to the mental health of Black youth.
Black individuals are more likely to experience trauma, including police brutality and racial violence. This exposure to trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.
Access to healthcare is another factor that contributes to the mental health of Black youth.
Research shows that Black people are less likely to receive appropriate care for mental health problems. This may be due to a lack of access to mental health services, cultural barriers, or mistrust of the healthcare system. This can result in untreated physical and mental health conditions.
Cultural factors also play a role in the mental health of Black youth.
For example, stigma around mental health may prevent some young people from seeking help. Some may also feel pressure to conform to cultural expectations and may struggle to express their emotions and seek help when needed.
Impact of COVID-19 on young people from Black and mixed-ethnic Groups’ mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of young people from Black and mixed-ethnic groups.
Research shows that the pandemic has caused an increase in the prevalence of mental health problems in this group. According to the 2021 MHCYP survey, 40% of 6-16 year-olds have experienced a deterioration in their mental health. The pandemic also led to increased exposure to racism and discrimination for Black youth, which can have a lasting negative impact on their mental health.
The pandemic has been a significant stressor for many, especially for those who experienced loss of income or financial difficulties.
According to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Black and South Asian people in the UK have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Before the pandemic, 44% of Black and South Asian people in the UK were living in poverty, and this figure increased during the pandemic. This has likely contributed to the deterioration of mental health in these groups.
Why do young people struggle with mental health?
Young people are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems due to various reasons. One significant factor is the transition from adolescence to adulthood. This transition is accompanied by significant changes in responsibilities, relationships, and expectations, which can be overwhelming for some young people.
Young people are more likely to experience mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety than any other age group.
The COVID-19 pandemic added additional stressors, such as social isolation, uncertainty about the future, and financial hardship, which all contributed to increased anxiety and depression. These stressors can exacerbate existing mental health problems or lead to the development of new ones.
How do you promote positive mental health in Black children?
Promoting good mental health in Black children and adolescents can involve a variety of actions, from creating a positive environment to ensuring access to supportive resources. Here are ten ways to promote good mental health in Black and mixed children and adolescents:
- Provide a supportive and positive environment: Creating a positive and supportive environment can have a significant impact on the mental health of children and adolescents. This includes providing a safe and stable home environment, positive relationships with family members, and access to community resources.
- Encourage healthy habits: Encouraging healthy habits such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and good sleep hygiene can help promote good mental health in children and adolescents.
- Foster a sense of belonging: Feeling connected to others and having a sense of belonging is essential for good mental health. Encouraging children and adolescents to participate in activities that foster a sense of belonging, such as sports teams, clubs, or community organisations, can be beneficial.
- Teach coping skills: Teaching children and adolescents healthy coping skills can help them manage stress and adversity. This includes skills such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and problem-solving.
- Promote positive self-esteem: Promoting positive self-esteem can help build resilience and prevent mental health issues. Encourage children and adolescents to engage in activities they enjoy and praise them for their efforts.
- Address discrimination and prejudice: Racism and discrimination can have a significant impact on the mental health of Black and mixed children and adolescents. It is important to address discrimination and prejudice when it occurs and provide resources and support to those affected.
- Provide access to mental health resources: Access to mental health resources such as counseling, therapy, and support groups is essential for promoting good mental health. Ensure that Black and mixed children and adolescents have access to these resources.
- Encourage communication: Encouraging open and honest communication can help children and adolescents feel heard and understood. Encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings, and provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment.
- Promote relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help reduce stress and promote good mental health. Encourage children and adolescents to try these techniques.
- Educate about mental health: Educating children and adolescents about mental health can help reduce stigma and promote understanding. Provide information about mental health issues, resources, and how to seek help when needed.