Cleveland Leaders Discuss Mental Health In The Black Community
The coronavirus pandemic and recent police killings of black people have worsened mental health issues in the black community, according to local leaders.
Community members and health officials discussed these issues at a virtual City Club of Cleveland forum Tuesday.
“We have to recognize what’s happening with the trauma that black people are experiencing, through social media, through just repeatedly having to see people that look like you be victimized and be murdered,” said MetroHealth clinical psychologist Dr. Marsheena Murray. “And the impact of that on our mental health. Not only for us, but for our kids.”
Murray said many young black people are already experiencing mental health issues due to frequent trauma, and racial disparities in healthcare means they may not be treated appropriately.
“If a black youth comes and they have irritability and outbursts, they get diagnosed with a disruptive disorder, versus if a white person has the same symptoms, they get diagnosed with depression,” she said. “So we just have to take a step back and make sure we’re getting looked at properly.”
Panelists suggested psychologists and therapists get cultural diversity and awareness training to better treat patients experiencing racism and trauma. But they also called for more outreach outside of the healthcare system.
The Reverend Courtney Clayton Jenkins of South Euclid Church of Christ suggested equipping what she calls “natural watering holes” – like churches and barbershops - with mental health resources and training.
“We have a lot of places where folks in the black community can vent,” she said. “The challenge becomes that, so often, we do that first step and we don’t have what we need necessarily to move us into the next step, which is, ‘how do I deal with this? What do I do?’”
Jenkins also said community leaders should be open about their own struggles with mental health to reduce stigma and start conversations.
The panel also featured Dr. Shemariah Arki, co-chair of non-profit Shooting Without Bullets and faculty member at Kent State University, and Habeebah Grimes, child psychologist and CEO of Positive Education Program in Cleveland. The panel was moderated by Dr. Lisa Ramirez, Director of Community and Behavioral Health at MetroHealth.