Although the threat of the coronavirus continues to loom over people’s daily lives, many African American residents across the D.C. region are fighting many other dilapidating home conditions — some which cannot take a back seat to even a deadly pathogen.
Just two weeks ago, the Department of Labor reported an astounding 3.28 million people filed for unemployment coverage in just one week. Economic hardships, illness and scarcity of resources are just a fraction of issues District residents face in some of its most impoverished neighborhoods.
“It’s really important for certain groups, especially African-American families, to see counselors as helpers and someone that is going to be helpful with the small problems,” said Lanada Williams, a licensed clinical professional counselor.
Williams urges the importance of families to normalize the idea of acknowledging and taking control of their mental health. For many African American families in D.C., the coronavirus pandemic is only another added burden to many preexisting ailments.
“Our communities were already having pandemics that were existing for them that aren’t televised or on the news — that are really multi-involved and have intersectionalities that are exacerbated by the pandemic right now, that they still have to worry about,” Williams said.
Karen Wilson, a physician who has for more than 10 years provided in-home mental health therapy, voiced concern about how the epidemic may evolve within select District communities.
“This is still very new and our communities have not really recognized it as a pandemic,” Wilson said. “Our kids and young adults are still hanging outside as if it’s a normal day. If this goes further along, I do have concerns, with kids having to be in the homes, what we really will see. Will the parents become more stressed out or will the kids even become more stressed out?”
Mental health professionals working with D.C. residents identify a barrier of access to privileges for families in many impoverished communities. The varying availability of assistance pushes health screening priorities behind more prominent life emergencies for many families.
“A lot of our families right now are just worried about eating regularly — maintaining their children,” Williams said.
Despite the overbearing weight of structural issues within many District households, mental health professionals still suggest implementations to help lessen the load for parents or adults with children in the household.
“One of the key things is giving your family some type of structure,” Williams said. “How you schedule is really important right now. it doesn’t have to be the same every day but giving yourself structure and your child.”
Bowser also encourages exercising during the period of social distancing. Finding peace during the national pandemic, and communicating with our families, are prime suggestions in helping to manage stress levels.
“There is a lot of anxiety around COVID-19,” Williams said. “It’s OK to sit down and to address the questions your children have — explaining why they are home from school. It’s a very hard transition, so after you have that quiet time, leave some room to have an ongoing conversation about what’s happening.”