Tools for Tending to Black Mental Health During Troubled TimesBy Katti Gray
What with the rarefied rage COVID-19 has unleashed against black bodies, the pandemic-fueled job losses, the run of unarmed Black persons slain by police, the subsequent protests, and America’s persistent problems with race, Black people have been overloaded with bad news and uncertainty in these reckoning times. As a result, mental health issues are surfacing at alarming rates in Black communities.
Sarah Vinson, M.D., a psychiatrist and clinical associate professor at Morehouse School of Medicine and an adjunct instructor at Emory University, both in Atlanta, G.A., says she’s seeing a worsening of symptoms among her patients. “Those with a history of depression have seen their depression surge and some of my patients have had a resurgence of suicidal thoughts,” she says. “Part of my work has been helping them understand their symptoms in the context of what’s happening now, but also in the context of our entire history in this country. I’m letting them know we’re enduring an unprecedented amount of stress. But we’ve always had these structural, systemic stresses.”
Getting through these times with our wits intact, adds Vinson, demands that we “give each other grace and pick our battles, and give our own, individual selves grace, too.” Which is precisely what Drew Giddings, a North Plainfield, N.J., strategist for nonprofit and philanthropic executives, is doing. He had been navigating the pandemic reasonably well by heeding social distancing, limiting his trips to essential spots like the grocery store, working from home, and enjoying needed backyard and other recreational time with his husband and 9-year-old son. But the George Floyd killing was a tipping point. “All of a sudden, it felt like we’re up against a pandemic within a pandemic,” says Giddings.
As a strategist, Giddings’ portfolio includes projects aimed at determining how to best deploy money and other resources against problems related to race relations and Black health, so he wasn’t surprised that his clients were