NEW YORK, MARCH 3, 2022 — As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to check in and see how people are coping and to answer question they may have about moving forward physically, mentally and spiritually. Dr. Michael A. Lindsey, Executive Director of the NYU McSilver Institute, was among the experts who were on hand yesterday evening to share their insights in a virtual health town hall titled, “How’s Your Health: Staying Healthy and Whole Through COVID-19 2.0.” “We truly believe in the cause of addressing some of the disparities that are affecting communities of color,” said Dr. Donna Jones, President, The Greater New York Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, in introductory remarks.
Rev. Dr. Elaine M. Flake, Pastor, Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York, conveyed just how profound a shock the COVID-19 pandemic has had to the Black community. “As people of color we have learned how to navigate the waters of racism and the waters of marginalization. We knew what it meant to be Black in America and deal with injustices, but this was something that baffled our minds and our spirituality was challenged, not just for congregation members, but also for spiritual leaders.”
Reverend Flake described the transition to online worship services (and funerals), and how parishioners coped with newfound isolation during shutdown periods. “Many who had become lax in prayer and church attendance began to pray a little bit more and even long for a spiritual connect that would carry them through a pool of emotions that they had never known.”
Among the top concerns expressed by audience members was how to help Black children and teens cope with the effects of the pandemic and relate measures affecting their schooling and daily routines. Dr. Lindsey shared that mental health-related emergency department visits among adolescents aged 12-17 increased 31 percent between 2019-2020, according to the CDC.
He said it’s important to look out for changes in behavior, such as falling grades or not functioning as well, because young people don’t always display depression and anxiety in the ways that adults do. “Kids typically express their depression in outward ways: anger, irritability, explosive outbursts that we might respond to by saying, That kid is bad or disrespectful. We may respond in punitive ways, but essentially what the kid is asking for is for you to unpack and understand what’s going on underneath all that. There could be fear, anxiety. It could be some trauma that they haven’t revealed to you yet.” Parents should not hesitate to seek professional help, and school-bases services are a good place to start.
Dr. Nanette Thomas, Medical Director of Ambulatory Care at Brookdale University Medical Center, said that progress is finally being made against COVID-19 in the Black and -brown Brooklyn community her hospital serves, following difficult months in which people in her community bore a disproportionate burden of hospitalizations and deaths, compared to white New Yorkers. One reason: after significant COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the early months of the pandemic, “We are finally starting to see a large number in our community not only accepting the second vaccine, if it’s an mRNA vaccine that they received, but getting booster shots.” That’s why they saw a lower rate of hospitalizations and deaths during the Omicron variant surge, despite a large increase in infections, she added. She urged continued vigilance and staying up-to-date with vaccinations.
The discussion was co-sponsored by the Greater New York Chapter of The Links, Incorporated and the NYU McSilver Institute. Marilyn Davis, a member of the chapter, moderated the discussion.
The organizers created a “Staying Healthy During the COVID-19 Pandemic” page listing pandemic-related resources for COVID-19 information, mental health support, senior assistance services, food, employment, housing assistance and more.
About the NYU McSilver Institute
The NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research committed to creating new knowledge about the root causes of poverty, developing evidence-based interventions to address its consequences, and rapidly translating research findings into action through policy and best practices. Learn more at mcsilver.nyu.edu and sign up for updates.
About the Greater New York Chapter of The Links, Incorporated
The Links, Incorporated, is one of the nation’s oldest and largest women’s volunteer service organizations, dedicated to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry. The Greater New York Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, founded in 1949, is dedicated to supporting programs that enhance the well-being of families and senior citizens in the New York City area.