Building Generational Resilience: Supporting BIPOC Grandfamilies and Kinship Families’ Mental Health

MHA Admin

Sun, 06/30/2024 – 19:35

by Jamarl D. Clark, Generations United Assistant Director, National Center on Grandfamilies

Have you ever felt the need to be seen and acknowledged? It’s a universal desire, right?! Unfortunately, the Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) community often doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves, especially concerning mental health and wellness. That’s why July is dedicated to BIPOC Mental Health. Let’s take a moment to discuss something important without taking up too much of your time: the mental health needs of BIPOC grandfamilies and kinship families. These families step in when parents can’t, and their mental health and well-being needs can vary greatly across different generations.

Did you know? There are approximately 2.4 million kids living in grandfamilies and kinship families, where they are being raised by grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, or other relatives without their parents in the home. About 7.6 million children are in households headed by a relative who isn’t their parent. Grandfamilies and kinship families are diverse, and they represent various geographies, socioeconomic statuses, races, and ethnicities. Yet, they are disproportionately Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, and, in some areas, Latino.

BIPOC caregivers and young people in these families often struggle to access mental health services for issues ranging from depression and stress to behavioral challenges. But what’s really holding them back?

Breaking Down Barriers

Growing up as a Black kid, I always heard the saying, “What happens in this house stays in this house.” This saying, especially prevalent among Black and Brown communities and passed down through generations, reflects a cultural norm that emphasizes the importance of keeping family matters private. While well-intentioned, this hush-hush attitude can create a barrier to seeking external help for personal or family issues. As a result, BIPOC families may avoid seeking the mental health support they need to navigate issues like depression, trauma, anxiety, substance abuse, and more.

Let’s talk about the hurdles BIPOC grandfamilies and kinship families face when it comes to getting the mental health support they need. On top of the hurdles that any BIPOC family may face, these families often deal with additional stigmas, financial challenges, and a lack of access to mental health care that is culturally responsive and supportive. There are also hurdles associated with digital literacy and access to high-speed internet, which many families can use to access mental health resources.

Take Mercedes from Texas, for example. She’s 68 and raising her grandkids. She said, “I had to jump through hoops in the system four times just to get help… It really got me down.” In her Hispanic community, talking about mental health is taboo. People fear judgment or being seen as weak, leading to a lack of awareness and support. This stigma, rooted in cultural beliefs of resilience and self-reliance, frames seeking mental health support as a personal failure or family shame. Consequently, many avoid discussing their struggles or seeking help, worsening their mental health. Additionally, mistrust of healthcare providers due to past mistreatment, lack of culturally competent care, and cultural pressures to rely on religious practices further prevent access to mental health support.

Financial challenges are also a major hurdle faced by these communities. Many grandfamilies and kinship families are on fixed incomes and dealing with the extra expenses of raising kids. Therapy can be expensive, and when you’re choosing between paying bills, buying groceries, covering the cost of medication, affording childcare, paying the mortgage, and paying for diapers and formula or getting mental health support, it’s a tough call. The desire to provide food, shelter, and security often outweighs the prioritization of mental health and wellness.

Dr. Deborah Langosch, who works with grandfamilies/kinship families and was featured in Generations United’s 2023 State of the Grandfamilies report, says, “We’re seeing a huge increase in anxiety, depression, PTSD, and social isolation among these families. The need is so urgent, and there’s a shortage of mental health providers, so we’re struggling to keep up. Early intervention is crucial because delayed treatment can have a big negative impact.”

Imagine if there were more mental health professionals who looked like them and understood their cultural nuances. It would build trust and make a world of difference for these families.

How We Can Step Up

To truly support BIPOC grandfamilies and kinship families, we can:

Embrace Cultural Understanding: It’s crucial that mental health services appreciate and respect the diverse backgrounds and traditions of these families.
Empower Their Voices: Involve caregivers, parents, and young people from these families in designing and setting up support services. Their insights and experiences are invaluable.
Ensure Accessibility: Advocate for more affordable mental health care and provide the necessary technology for virtual visits. Everyone deserves easy access to the help they need.
Invest in Tribal Nations: Support culturally appropriate mental health services tailored specifically for Tribal communities.

In closing, supporting BIPOC grandfamilies and kinship families with their mental health isn’t just about talking—it’s about taking action. By breaking down stigmas, pushing for affordable care, and making services culturally sensitive, we’re giving these families a fair shot at thriving. Let’s ensure every voice counts and every family gets the help they need. Together, we can make mental health support easy to reach and empowering for all.

Resources

Generations United. (2023) State of Grandfamilies Report 2023. Building Resilience: Supporting Grandfamilies’ Mental Health and Wellness.

Generations United. (2023). Strengthening Cultural Responsiveness in Intergenerational Programs.

Generations United. (2020). American Indian & Alaska Native Grandfamilies: Helping Children Thrive Through Connection to Family and Cultural Identity Toolkit & Tipsheet.

Generations United. (2020). African American Grandfamilies: Helping Children Thrive Through Connection to Family and Culture Toolkit & Tipsheet.

Generations United. (2022). Latino Grandfamilies: Helping Children Thrive Through Connection to Culture and Family Toolkit & Tipsheet.

Learn more about grandfamilies and kinship families at gu.org and gksnetwork.org.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
 
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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Emergency

Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Epilepsy/Seizures
Cardiovascular
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…

trauma

Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.

Rehabilitative

Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at:
info@healthydcandme.org