Novacek, D. M., Hampton-Anderson, J. N., Ebor, M. T., Loeb, T. B., and Wyatt, G. E. (2020). Mental health ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Black Americans: Clinical and research recommendations. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(5), 449–451.
Sneed, R. S., Key, K., Bailey, S., and Johnson-Lawrence, V. (2020). Social and psychological consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in African-American communities: Lessons from Michigan. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(5), 446–448.
Two articles in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy® give an overview of the trauma African American communities have faced during previous public health crises and call attention to the differential impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. The studies show that Hurricane Katrina, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the Flint water crisis in Michigan all provide lessons for reducing negative outcomes among Black Americans during current times of crisis.
Discrimination and racism, along with economic and environmental disparities, already reduce access to education, health care, and resources in Black communities. And during the COVID-19 health emergency, government restrictions on public activities have further reduced or completely eliminated access to the care (Lund, 2020). Studies show that even when African American individuals do seek care, the assumed bias and lack of trust in providers plays a large role in continuation and quality of care. Because of the Flint water crisis, for example, many members of the Black community continue to experience adverse health effects and have significant distrust in government and public health officials.
Black communities also experience high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to other ethnic/racial groups. When crises result in exclusion or isolation, adverse mental health issues like depression and PTSD are only exacerbated. These outcomes are also expected to occur as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early COVID-19 rates in Michigan show that Black Americans make up 41% of deaths, while only making up 13% of the population (Sneed, Key, Bailey, and Johnson-Lawrence, 2020). Given the ongoing community concerns in Flint, the state government has taken a multitude of steps to engage the community and local leaders in order to prevent adverse outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts are targeted at increasing community engagement, for example, through creation of diverse, multisector task forces and ongoing, virtual videoconferences and webinars that involve local organizations. Community engagement and support increase resilience within African American communities.