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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

COVID’s lingering effects on mental health hit Black community hard

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While many of us are celebrating the end of mask mandates and trying to find a new normal post-COVID-19, a large percentage of the population has been affected in ways we never imagined when the pandemic struck. We have a new mental health crisis that we cannot ignore, and it’s hitting the Black community especially hard. 

The pandemic exposed long-standing inequities related to race, ethnicity and income. Confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths were higher in predominately Black communities. Black Americans were nearly five times more likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die from the virus compared with white Americans. 

A Commonwealth Fund analysis from April found Black and Latino respondents reporting mental health concerns about COVID at a rate 10 points higher than White respondents. Older Black adults also reported increased isolation and lower access to digital communication tools. 

In the aging care industry, we have long known that social isolation and loneliness are associated with declines in physical, mental and cognitive health. Many older adults experience chronic loneliness under normal circumstances; the pandemic only heightened anxiety and depression among this already vulnerable population.

Add to that increased anxiety and anger following the deaths of George Floyd and others in highly publicized police killings, and it’s easy to see the makings of the current mental health crisis.

I urge our elected officials and community leaders to take action to make more mental health resources available to all people in need. 

Tauhric Brown is president and CEO of CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions, which works to help older adults and people with disabilities in Central Indiana live as independently as possible.  

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