Discrimination and hate crimes against people of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may be wondering how you can help your AAPI patients cope with feelings that arise from experiences of racism.
Although some schools have been open in person for months, some larger districts are just beginning to welcome students back on campus. Children, families, educators, and medical professionals have mixed feelings. To help you support different patient populations as they return to school, we talked to Jennifer Walton, MD, MPH, a co-author of a call for an “URGENT Coordinated Effort to Re-Open Schools” by the National Medical Association (NMA). Dr. Walton is chair of the NMA’s Pediatric Section, an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at The Ohio State University, and a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Last week I saw two children, both African American, who were having suicidal thoughts. In neither case did the child or the parents come in asking for mental health support.
One, a 13-year-old girl I’ll call Simone, wrote on her PHQ-9 depression screener that she had attempted suicide. In our interview, she revealed that she had had sex with a man she met online and that she had been cutting herself. Yet the reason she and her parents came in was an ADHD medication check!
Pediatric primary care providers (PCPs) need to realize that African-American families may not seek help for mental health issues. The reasons for the lack of disclosure are rooted in the stigma around mental health in the African-American community. The stigma, in turn, is rooted in the trauma associated with being Black in America.
Once pediatric primary care providers (PCPs) recognize the importance of having conversations about race with their patients and families, the next question is how to begin.
“The first thing clinicians need to know about racism and discrimination is how important it is to talk about it.” Open, honest, and effective conversations about race and racism are crucial to young people’s mental health.
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