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Black Lives Matter. Black Mental Health Matters Too.

The stronghold of racism is visible in how our nation has experienced yet another blatantly racist mass shooting, fueled by white supremacy replacement theory and carried out by a white male shooter, which resulted in the murder of ten Black persons at Tops, a grocery store in a predominantly Black community in Buffalo, New York. Hate crimes such as this remind us of Erikson’s robust commitment to the pursuit of justice, reaffirming our commitment to ensuring that:

  • children have the resources to grow and develop in safe homes and communities
  • the voices and experiences of historically excluded and marginalized communities are centrally positioned
  • the stigma of mental health is upended
  • mental health services are widely available
  • throughout our work, a robust understanding of the need to actively work to examine and interrupt systemic intersections of early childhood, racism, policy, and injustice.

In addition to working to abolish the pervasive and ingrained nature of racism and entangled systems of exclusion and oppression, we must attend to the emotional impact such attacks take on people, particularly on Black and other people of Color, via the provision of mental health services.

Dismantling systemic racist structures in society and their detrimental effects is our shared responsibility. Such crimes are violations, which create obligations. Central to these obligations is to put right the wrongs — whether they were inflicted historically and/or contemporarily, by us and/or by others.

A large part of Erikson’s work focuses on mental health — both that of very young children and of the people — parents, teachers, and caregivers — who nurture, support, and sustain them and their brilliance. We know that the first eight years of a child’s life shapes their future, and that emotional well-being starts at birth. This means that amidst historic and contemporary forms of trauma, we must dedicate ourselves and reorganize our systems to ensure that we are not further traumatizing or pathologizing young children, families, caregivers, and others who live in divested communities. That is, as we work to abolish barriers and reorganize systems that have long worked to keep systemic racism in place, we also must attend to the toll Black and other persons of Color experience amidst repeated threat, trauma, and violence.

It is with hope for addressing both harms and needs that we call upon our policy makers at every level to support initiatives that expand and deepen mental health services for all, especially our Black children and children of Color, alongside the adults who shape their lives. It is our collective obligation to put things right as we work toward a just world where Black lives, Black histories, and Black futures matter.

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