August 11, 2022

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers. Today, we share with you a story exploring the impact the Covid-19 pandemic may have on today’s children as they reach adulthood. We also look at a faith-based effort in Indiana to address youth mental health, an app that promotes mental wellness among new Black moms and a new state law in Tennessee that makes it a crime to be homeless in the street.

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How will COVID-19 affect today’s children as they enter adulthood?

With the pandemic headed into its third year, scientists predict that COVID-19 will have a similar effect on today’s youth as the Great Depression did on the children of that era, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. Some will develop more resilience, others will be at greater risk for increased struggles. Many researchers believe we can mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic on children and adolescents – but doing so will require resources.

Via Twitter

David Abramson of the NYU School of Global Public Health studied the effects of trauma in child survivors of Hurricane Katrina. He predicts that youth who experienced severe COVID-related trauma – such as the death of a parent, a major economic loss or a serious COVID-related illness – may be especially vulnerable at certain stages of their lives. The first may come in a few years, when the full reality of the trauma settles in. Another may emerge in their 20s, as people try to attain certain milestones like purchasing a home or getting married. Finally, people in their 50s are likely to face greater risk of diseases such as diabetes and schizophrenia.

Young children may be the most affected because they’re at a formative stage of development, said Sean Deoni, a Brown University scientist whose research focuses on the cognitive development of kids. His lab has found lowered IQs among children under 5, and he attributes the decline to a lack of social interaction and stimulation during shutdowns. Will declines in youth IQ be permanent? Deoni says that’s not yet clear. Some kids may even find benefits from having survived a trying ordeal, especially if they get mental health support. “Resilience is like a rubber band,” said Laura Clary of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health. “If you use it, it makes you stronger and you can develop the skills that allow you to navigate new situations later in life.”

Black Youth Collective works to improve youth mental health in Indianapolis

Earlier this year, Faith in Indiana organized the Black Youth Collective fellowship program, aimed at helping teens and young adults become advocates for mental health, particularly for those who may not be able to afford mental health services. The program’s fellows, who range in age from 15 to 20, got the chance to improve their communities and change the narrative about who they are as young people. “We’re criminalized as thugs, welfare queens, or just people that are lazy-good-for-nothings,” Georon Evans told Indiana Public Media. “It gives me a power — a power to organize. It puts me in a space where I can get young folk also like myself to want and see change in the community.”

One of the group’s goals is to build a clinician-led crisis response team so that people in a mental health crisis don’t have to call the police. Their advocacy has captured the attention of local officials. This week, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett included $2 million in his proposed budget for 2023 to develop a 24-hour mental health emergency response team. Josh Riddick, a Faith in Indiana organizer, is excited for the youths’ work. “Every social movement in this country was led by young people,” Riddick said. 

She Matters app promotes Black maternal wellness

Via Twitter

Entrepreneur Jade Kearney was an NYU grad student when she launched an app that got the tech world taking note – and that boosted postpartum wellness for Black women. She developed the She Matters app to aid Black women experiencing postpartum anxiety and depression by connecting them to culturally sensitive therapists. Now, she told TechCrunch, she’s broadening the focus to address a range of postpartum issues, and is partnering with healthcare systems. She also has raised another $1.5 million that will allow the company to grow from six to 15 employees.

The broader focus will include not only postpartum mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, but also preeclampsia and hemorrhaging, two of the biggest postpartum comorbidities that Black women experience. As the app evolves, Kearney hopes to expand to other communities of color with products like “Ella Importa” for Latinx women, “They Matter” for LGBTQ people and “Native Her” for Indigenous communities.

“We just want to take the secret sauce that we have for Black women where we’ve made Black women feel comfortable and given them the tools to advocate for themselves, and we want to use that same approach for other folks,” she said.

Tennessee further criminalizes homelessness

Via Twitter

Tennessee is tackling homelessness…by making it a felony offense. CNN reported on  the state’s latest approach to clearing out camps of unhoused people sleeping on the streets and at parks. Though Tennessee is the first state in the country to take such harsh action, similar bills passed in Texas last year and are being considered in Arizona and Georgia. The bills were drafted or inspired by the Cicero Institute, a right-leaning think tank based in Austin that is funded by a tech billionaire. The goal of the bills “isn’t to criminalize someone,” said Judge Glock, the institute’s senior director of policy and research, it is to provide “some sort of stick as well as a carrot to move people onto the next step.”

Taneesha Green, who has lived on a Nashville roadside for more than a year, said the police have already told her to move or else. She has nowhere else to go, but doesn’t want to land in jail, either. “It’s a felony to survive,” she said.

A felony conviction will create even greater obstacles to being approved for a lease or being hired for a job. “It’s a huge deal,” said Lindsey Krinks, an outreach worker with Open Table Nashville, told CNN. “A felony offense carries up to six years in jail, a $3,000 fine and the loss of voting rights.” Tennessee is one of only five states that has no state minimum wage, leaving only the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Eric Tars, legal director of the National Homelessness Law Center said the state should increase wages so people can afford rising rents. “This is a push to put the most vulnerable people, who are citizens, into internment camps.”

In other news…

Student ID cards from New Hampshire community colleges will now include phone numbers for mental health crisis lines, according to Carriage Towne News. The effort is their latest move to ensure students have easy access to mental health support in the event of a crisis. The IDs will include numbers for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence helpline, the 741741 Crisis Text Line, and the new 988 helpline.

Innovative ways to promote employee well-being and morale was the focus of a live conversation on social media hosted by the Washington Post. Among those practices: encouraging staff to use vacation time to actually step away from work. Here’s a transcript of the Post’s chat with Tim Ryan, US chair and senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Suicide rates for people incarcerated in state prisons grew a staggering 85% between 2001 and 2019, according to data from the National Institute of Corrections. A recent report from KFYR-TV put a spotlight on one state prison in North Dakota that says it is working to make inmates more comfortable seeking help.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Courtney Wise

Courtney Wise Randolph is a writer and creative based in Detroit, Michigan.