For those living in disenfranchised, neglected, and underserved communities, the pandemic has significantly reduced access to mental health provider services.
To help address this disparity, the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation granted $300,000 to Fordham University to provide free, trauma-informed, clinical mental health services to children and adolescents ages 8 through 16 in predominantly Black, Latinx, and immigrant communities in the Bronx. Some 40.8% of Bronx children live in households below the federal poverty level, compared to the U.S. average of 11%, and 19.7% live in temporary housing–three times higher than the state average of 5.9 % (Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, 2021).
Consistent with the national shift to virtual learning, Fordham’s Clinical Mental Health Services (CCMH) program, run by the Division of Psychology and Educational Services in the University’s Graduate School of Education, will include virtual counseling for at-risk youth, who have been shown to especially benefit from such services. Nearly 100 youth will have the opportunity to take part in a total of 2,500 clinical counseling interventions designed to resolve social-emotional issues and alleviate psychological stress. Groups and workshops are also being offered to parents and teachers to help further their ability to support Bronx youth.
The crisis continues to take its toll, with up to 4 in 10 adults on average having reported anxiety or depression symptoms during the pandemic. According to the CDC, during the pandemic children’s mental health-related emergency department visits went up 24% for children 5-11 and 31% in youth 12-17. Coupled with the scale of the pandemic’s impact, an increase in community-based factors like stress, gun violence, and racism are also taking a toll on the mental health of New York’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised communities.
With Mental Health Awareness Month well underway, there is value in reimagining the definition of health, beyond just physical wellbeing, and ensuring all communities have access to critical mental health programs.