Emotional and behavioral health is key to overall health. Our brains, and especially the brains of children and adolescents, are acutely tuned to react and respond to environmental cues, both positive and negative. These reactions take the form of thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, all of which add up to represent our mental health. As we have recently and painfully experienced, structural, systemic, and institutional racism are a public health crisis and mental health crisis. It’s clear that racism deeply influences the environments around, and the emotional and general medical health of, children and families.
This is not a new phenomenon, but one that that has existed for centuries. We have witnessed and been angered, saddened, and horrified at the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony Dade, and countless others whose names we recognize and those we do not. We stand by their families, loved ones, and communities. We denounce police brutality. We denounce racism, violence, and inequality. In addition, as health care professionals, we are deeply aware of and upset by the disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people across the country.
To attend to mental health and overall health, we must address these disparities and not be silent or complacent when faced with them. To achieve these goals, it’s imperative that we attend to and reflect upon our own privilege in an effort to understand individual and institutional beliefs surrounding race, access to care, and outcomes.
We at the Vermont Center for Children, Youth, and Families (VCCYF) strive to use the Family Based Approach, characterized by health promotion and prevention with a long-term goal of helping the well remain illness-free, preventing at-risk children from developing psychiatric illness, and intervening comprehensively on behalf of the children and families challenged by emotional or behavioral disorders. Achieving these goals requires that we work towards addressing inequality in our institutions and community and to advance social justice initiatives. This will take sustained effort and require self-reflection, reexamination of our systems with fresh outlook, collaboration with community partners, and humility. Undoubtedly, we have more work to do. To create the just, safe, kind, and anti-racist world we want for our children we must act. As we work to learn and act on how best to support our communities, the VCCYF is committed to combatting indifference, dismantling barriers to care, and addressing biases as they are revealed. As we continue these efforts, we will provide updates and seek accountability for ourselves both individually and at a systemic level.
VCCYF joins our national organization, AACAP's condemnation of racism and police brutality.