When we create an inclusive system, we create a better system.

Two boys smiling

That’s our belief here at maro parents. If a system doesn’t aim to improve the lives of the most vulnerable that it serves, then it’s a flawed system. There are many inequities that people of color come across throughout their daily lives. They show up in the financial lending system, the job market, and even in our healthcare systems. Unfortunately, children aren’t impervious to this reality.

According to the National Institutes of Health, structural racism has contributed to “poorer health outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities.” Children of color are just as vulnerable as adults to the effects of systemic racism in health if not more. We’ve witnessed the pandemic exacerbate the existing inequities within the healthcare system as the virus impacted communities of color disproportionately compared to whites. The pandemic also strained the mental health needs of children of color as schools across the country were closed since schools have been the primary provider of these services to many children.

As we’ve previously covered, the nation’s leading institutions on pediatric healthcare recently declared a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health. They found that emergency department visits for children aged 5 to 11 years rose 24% and 31% for those aged 12 to 17 years. Suicide attempts also increased 51% for teenage girls earlier this year compared to previous years. It’s terrible that this crisis is affecting children, but what’s even more concerning is the fact that children of color aren’t given the same access to mental health services as their white peers.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that children of color who do gain access to mental health services often receive it at a lower quality than white children. Having a focus on ensuring children of color are given access to quality mental health care is a goal of ours and we’ve continuously kept in mind the role that structural racism plays in child development. It’s important that we provide solutions that keep diverse families at the forefront.

A child’s racial identity can Indicate their mental health outcomes

Now some parents might wonder, “what is the need to distinguish between children? Why not create a solution with all children in mind?” It’s a fair question to ask, but it overlooks the lived experiences of families of color and fails to consider how families with racial and cultural backgrounds experience life differently.

Our life circumstances which include our racial identity have an immense influence on how we engage with the world. Things like income and geographic location have an impact on our ability to receive treatment as well.

For example, less than 15% of children in poverty receive the mental health care they need due to a lack of insurance. Rural children face barriers when accessing mental healthcare because of a shortage of providers and transportation. With this in mind, it’s no surprise to learn that children of color have unique barriers and inequities related to systemic racism in the healthcare industry.

Black Americans have constantly gotten higher rates of misdiagnosis as a result of their behavior being pathologized for centuries. Black students are more likely to be disciplined than treated compared to other racial groups which suspension rates show.

Hispanic students are also disciplined at a higher rate than white students for their behavior. Having a language barrier can cause Hispanic children to receive a lower quality of care for their mental health while concerns around citizenship status result in many families being uninsured. Immigrants were the hardest hit by job loss during the pandemic, especially Hispanic women.

Asian children are the least likely to seek or receive treatment for their diagnosed mental illness. There’s also been an influx of hate crimes and verbal abuse hurled towards the Asian community since the coronavirus was first discovered. This wave of abuse has impacted children greatly.

Native American teens have more than double the suicide death rate compared to their white peers and have the highest rate of depression when contrasted to all racial groups. It’s also tough to get services to many Native children who reside on reservations. Providing telehealth services to Native populations is difficult since only 67% of Native Americans possess high-speed internet compared to 82% of the entire population.

These systemic issues may be entrenched and it might feel a bit daunting to take them on, but there are ways that parents can empower themselves in getting their children the right attention.

How maro parents works to close the gaps of these racial disparities

Our innovative app is a tool designed to equip parents of all backgrounds with the necessary information to help uplift their children and promote positive development. We believe that by giving parents access to the maro parents app, they’ll find the right way to initiate conversations about mental health with their children which is the first step to seeking adequate care.

The maro parents app contains expert vetted content that addresses the causes, signs, and treatment options available to children who may be suffering from mood disorders like anxiety and depression. We also have modules that help parents navigate heavy topics such as suicide and grief and loss which many families have experienced through these past two years. Although our content is timely in these unusual times, we’d like to think all of the instruction and advice housed on our app is evergreen wisdom that will serve families well into the future.

Delivering this knowledge to parents may not erode years of systemic racism or breakthrough those cemented barriers, but having the wisdom from mental health professionals in the palm of their hands can give families of color the leg up they’ve so desperately needed.

For more information about how to talk to kids about mental health, check out maro parents.

Additional Sources:

“Solutions to achieve equity in children’s mental and physical health” by Ashley Butler, PhD. https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/newsletter/2016/06/childrens-mental-physica

“A National Agenda for Children’s Mental Health” by Jessica Dym Bartlett, Brandon Stratford. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/mental-health-support-students-color-coronavirus-pandemic/

“Mental Health Support for Students of Color During and After the Coronavirus Pandemic” by Abby Quirk. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/mental-health-support-students-color-coronavirus-pandemic/

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