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How Mental Health Professionals Can Address Disparities in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

  • Author(s): Loeb, Tamra Burns
  • Ebor, Megan T
  • Smith-Clapham, Amber M
  • Chin, Dorothy
  • Novacek, Derek M
  • Hampton-Anderson, Joya N
  • Norwood-Scott, Enricka
  • Hamilton, Alison B
  • Brown, Arleen F
  • Wyatt, Gail E
  • et al.

The Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is an unparalleled crisis, yet also a unique opportunity for mental health professionals to address and prioritize mental and physical health disparities that disproportionately impact marginalized populations. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) have long experienced structural racism and oppression, resulting in disproportionately high rates of trauma, poverty, and chronic diseases that span generations and are associated with increased COVID-19 morbidity and mortality rates. The current pandemic, with the potential of conferring new trauma exposure, interacts with and exacerbates existing disparities. To assist mental health professionals in offering more comprehensive services and programs for those who have minimal resources and the most profound barriers to care, four critical areas are highlighted as being historically problematic and essential to address: (a) recognizing psychology's role in institutionalizing disparities; (b) examining race/ethnicity as a critical variable; (c) proactively tackling growing mental health problems amidst the COVID-19 crisis; and (d) understanding the importance of incorporating historical trauma and discrimination in research and practice. Recommendations are provided to promote equity at the structural (e.g., nationwide, federal), professional (e.g., the mental health professions), and individual (e.g., practitioners, researchers) levels.

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