Facing racism depletes young adults’ mental health

The transition to adulthood can be challenging. A new study finds that the effects of discrimination can cause serious damage to the mental health of the already struggling young adult age group.

The study by UCLA researchers found that young adults who experience frequent interpersonal discrimination based on race, gender or physical appearance are at greater risk for mental health problems than those who do. not. The authors analyzed data from a 10-year survey and found that people aged 18 to 28 who have experienced constant discrimination in the short or long term are 25% more likely to experience psychological distress, being diagnosed with a mental illness or reporting excessive drug use. use.

“It paints a vivid picture of how discrimination is very strongly linked to the mental and behavioral health of young adults. It is more difficult to be a young person today than it has been for a long time,” said lead author of the study, Dr Adam Schickedanz. , assistant professor of pediatrics at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “The world is spinning faster. A lot of things are constantly changing, and there are a lot of challenges. If we listen more to that … we can do better with young people.”

From 2007 to 2017, young adults who experienced consecutive years of severe and high-frequency discrimination were at higher risk of mental health problems and poorer overall health, according to research.

While the study focused on people from diverse backgrounds, racial discrimination has long been seen as a significant stressor on black mental health, with government leaders increasingly recognizing that inequalities in racial health can cause psychological distress. The experience of racism has been linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression among blacks. An estimated 67% of black adults said discrimination is a major source of stress, according to a July 2020 survey by the American Psychological Association.

The association’s chief diversity officer, Maysa Akbar, author of “Urban Trauma: A Legacy of Racism,” said discrimination can usually manifest itself in microaggressions.

“What racial trauma is, are the cumulative effects of racism on an individual’s mental and physical health,” Akbar said. “A lot of times this is linked to feelings of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and a host of other health issues. It’s something that can be there throughout life. You can do it. experience in childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. When we walk with this unresolved trauma, it only creates more detrimental effects on our well-being. “

Akbar said that getting enough sleep, engaging in spirituality, family support and personal care can “really be a good start in alleviating these times of chronic discrimination.”

Simply experiencing racist discrimination is not all that affects mental health. The authors found that discrimination was also linked to disparities in mental and medical health care. Black mental health advocates have consistently pointed out that the nation’s public health systems leave people with few options for culturally appropriate care.

Meanwhile, community clinics that strive to fill these gaps are severely underfunded. In a 2018 study by the National Council for Mental Wellness and the Cohen Veterans Network, several participants cited sky-high costs and said the government should do more to fund black mental health services. According to the American Counseling Association, blacks with mental health needs are less likely to receive treatment than whites. The study also found that black people sometimes do not seek care because of “feelings of mistrust and stigma or perceptions of racism.”

According to 2019 data from the American Psychological Association, 3% of the country’s psychology workforce is black.

Clara Benson, 33, of South Carolina, started CREW (Community Resources for Enduring Wellness) in July 2020 after, she said, several of her peers asked her if she knew of black mental health providers. They were hard to find. Benson, who studied psychology in college, said she was not a mental health care provider, but simply a concerned citizen who sought to find her “path in the movement.”

So, under CREW, Benson started the Black Wellness Project, publishing a database of nearly 200 mental health providers in the Carolinas.

Benson said such resources are important because, “especially in rural areas, you usually don’t see yourself sufficiently represented” in the databases where the general population is looking for counselors.

“And it takes a lot to find black faces,” she said. “When you are in a crisis and trying to find help, it is imperative that you do not face these kinds of obstacles. It is just another thing that you have to face. says, “If I can go through and find every Black Face that I can and put it in a spreadsheet, maybe that would make it easier for people to access.”

Along with the physical stress of racial trauma – which is linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more – emotional trauma can result from daily micro-attacks while watching videos of police officers killing black people. As of August, city councils, county councils, public health departments and the offices of governors and mayors of 37 states had made at least 200 reports of racism as a public health crisis, according to the American Public Health Association. . However, federal and state leaders have been slow to adequately address structural racism as a threat to public health, the association said.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated existing stressors for blacks. The pandemic has disproportionately affected black communities through health, unemployment and education. And a June 2020 Washington Post poll found that one in three black people knew someone who had died of Covid-19. As the coronavirus began to take its toll in the United States, hundreds of protests erupted across the country to tackle police violence following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day 2020. The nation’s racial calculation has wreaked havoc among blacks, and black therapists have reported a peak in high demand by black clients.

Akbar said the demand is high as black communities are sometimes reluctant to seek treatment for mental and physical illnesses for fear of experiencing further racism.

“In general, for African American communities… seeking mental health treatment is really the last option,” Akbar said. “You have to be in an incredible crisis to say this is the way to go.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME at 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.

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