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.
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.
As suicidality among adolescents generally has declined in the past three decades, suicide attempts among Black adolescents have risen, according to a November 2019 article in Pediatrics. A report to the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) says that rates of suicide death have risen more for Black youth than for any other racial or ethnic group. A growing concern is that Black youth are less likely to report suicidal thoughts but more likely to attempt suicide; Black males are more likely to suffer injury or death as a result. Suicidality is also increasing among younger children. The reasons for these changes are not clear. However, the risk factors for suicidality and underlying mental health conditions among Black children and youth are myriad.
As you’ve dealt with back-to-school (and back-to-sports) visits, you probably have been challenged by the gap between what’s needed and what’s practical. This visit may be the only time you see this child this year. You know that emotional and mental health is as important as physical health. But you have only so much time for each check-up. Screening tools are a big help…
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