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  • Writer's pictureNetwork Connect

Mental Health In Our Community - Part 1

Updated: Jun 9, 2023



May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to shine a light on the importance of mental health and wellbeing. The RACE Program at Network Connect is designed to directly address these issues and to ensure that all teens in the metro Delaware area who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have the tools they need to access mental and physical support in learning spaces and in their homes.


Young people today face a wide array of challenges and threats to their mental health; it is especially important in today’s world to focus on the link between mental health, ACEs, and the stigma of mental health in black and brown communities. These communities are often disproportionately impacted by mental health challenges and face unique barriers to accessing care and support. By understanding the link between these factors and how to best take action to advocate for mental health, we can work towards a brighter, healthier future for all.


UNDERSTANDING MENTAL HEALTH IN OUR COMMUNITIES


1. SYSTEMIC INEQUALITIES – Health disparities. We’re sure you’ve heard those words thrown around a lot. A health disparity is defined as, “a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage.” Broadly speaking, the factors that contribute to disparities are economic stability, your environment or neighborhood, education, access to food, community safety and systematic racism in the actual health care system. If there are inequalities in any of these areas it can impact your health and well-being, and that includes mental health.


2. ACES - The prevalence of ACEs is often higher in minority communities. Many of the factors above feed into ACES, and ACES have a direct link to mental health. Do you see the connection here? Data shows black and brown children are impacted more than others. Over 25% of Black youth exposed to violence have been proven to be at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black Americans, ages 15 to 24. These stats are heartbreaking; but luckily there’s a lot we can do as a community to prevent ACES.

 

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) refer to traumatic events that occur during childhood, such as:

  • abuse

  • neglect

  • household dysfunction

Research has shown that experiencing ACEs can have a profound impact on mental health outcomes later in life. The potential impacts of ACEs are:

  • physiological

  • behavioral

  • psychological

This can often translate into poorer outcomes across a wide range of areas of health (Lorenc). Children who experience ACEs are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

 

3. STIGMA – The impact of ACEs on mental health is compounded by the stigma surrounding mental health. Many families believe that mental health challenges are a personal weakness or a result of spiritual weakness, rather than a medical condition. This ongoing stigma can prevent people from seeking help when they need it, which can make mental health challenges worse across generations. Normalizing regular mental health care activities, ensuring access to services and promoting awareness in communities can help reverse the effects of this negative social stigma. Mental health awareness benefits all members of a family and community.


The great news is, awareness is an important first step in navigating systemic inequalities, the ACEs and even stigma. So hopefully, we accomplished some of that in this article. In our next blog post we’ll explore how to advocate for mental health support in your community and for yourself.


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