By Elizabeth Gehrman, Harvard Medicine, January 21, 2021
Maybe it hasn’t actually been the worst year ever, as internet memes are calling it, but for most of us, 2020 really has been “extra.” Against the backdrop of a pandemic that has created economic havoc and kept people from loved ones and purpose-defining work, the country has endured its greatest social unrest in decades, largely driven by a relentless daily barrage of horrifying racial incidents delivered up close and in real time. And, in the ultimate betrayal, these incidents—from the killings of Black men at the hands of police to countless “Karen” encounters on public and private property—have often been encouraged by the very government meant to protect us.
If you, as an adult, have been feeling anxious and distressed, imagine what all this is doing to children.
“This year has been exceptionally challenging for Black youth,” says James Huguley, interim director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center on Race and Social Problems. “Because of the racial disparities in our broken system, they’re more likely to know someone affected by COVID-19. The social isolation makes everything worse, and most kids who receive mental health support get it at school, where most of them have not been since February. And at the same time all these racial atrocities in policing are happening.”