“Peace of Mind” co-host Tracie Jade Jenkins discusses mental health in the age of COVID-19, especially among the African American community.
What changes have you seen in the past couple of years regarding mental health?
The tides have definitely changed. In 2020, according to APA survey, 78 percent of Americans said that COVID-19 was a significant source of stress. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for ages 10-14 and 25-34, and in the African American community, the suicide rate for youth doubled over the past decade. Isolation, financial hardship, and the loss of loved ones and community ranked high on our foundation’s survey for African Americans who sought therapy through our free therapy campaign. On the brighter side, in 2021, 42 percent of those who received support through our program were new to therapy and we’ve seen a 200 percent increase in Black men who have received therapy over the past two years. More people are openly talking about mental health and the benefits of getting support.
What resources do you recommend for young people struggling with mental health, especially during COVID?
Connect with a peer group, either online or in-person. Our young people have been in isolation due to COVID over the past couple of years. People need people. We’ve seen some of the best outcomes when our youth hear from one another and know that they’re not alone.
The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation (BLHF) offers “hangouts” for ages 14-22 online, in schools, and in community centers across the country. It’s a safe space for young people to go and connect as a group with a therapist. They share their challenges without judgement and receive tools to address their needs. Thankfully there are more and more resources being made available every day. BLHF has a crisis text line available: text PEACE to 741741. For emergencies, dial 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
How can people create a sense of community for themselves in a time where isolation is so common?
Make space for grace. Allow yourself to feel how you feel being alone — the ups and the downs. You may be surprised what space and grace offers. I told myself the other night “I love you, Tracie,” out loud! I was shocked; I’d never heard myself say that out loud. I giggled like a little girl. It felt good. I realized I’d heard it said to me my whole life, but never from myself. It was empowering.
Take a class online, join a book club, learn to play an instrument, or take a dance class. Art is definitely a conduit to healing and community. I am challenged with anxiety and depression. During the past two years, I’ve gotten my certification as a guided meditation teacher, joined a minimalism movement, and I’m starting guitar lessons, all from home. The regular schedule and routine has helped me to stay grounded, present, and grateful for the time, as opposed to having too much space in my head for repetitive, negative thoughts.
Why was it important to you to start your Facebook Watch show “Peace of Mind” with Taraji P. Henson?
We wanted to create a space to normalize conversations around mental health for the African American community. We wanted to remove some of the stigma, distrust, and barriers we’ve experienced for generations and educate people around what they may be experiencing or what they may have observed in others. Ultimately, we hope they feel safe enough to get the help they need.