“We’re Just Not Talking About Them Enough”: Why One Therapist Is Urging Parents And Caregivers To Pay Attention To Black Teens Amidst The Covid-19 Pandemic

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Close-Up Of Teenage Girl With Braided Hair Wearing Mask

Source: Jean Paul Meyntjens / EyeEm / Getty

As families fight to stay afloat beneath the crushing weight of the Covid-19 pandemic, licensed clinical social worker Marline Francois-Madden is urging parents and caretakers to pay close attention to teens — especially Black girls who are prone to depression.

“For some people who are already dealing with depression, they’re sitting with their thoughts and it [social distancing] creates a challenge for some of these girls and we’re just not talking about them enough,” said Francois-Madden, author of The State of Black Girls: A Go-To Guide for Creating a Safe Space for Black Girls. “People aren’t really listening to them. They feel that they’re kids, they’re home and they should be fine. Their parents have enough going on with Covid and losing their jobs and being essential workers. It’s easy to forget.”

Most recently, 15-year-old Jo’Vianni “Jo” Smith took her life as a result of what her mother believed to be the stress of Covid-19 lockdowns.

“We can’t think that our kids are OK just because,” Smith’s mother Danielle Hunt told Fox 40. “Sometimes we may need to stop and worry about the kids that we don’t think we need to worry about.”

“For her, social distancing was just too much. It was becoming too much for her being home all day,” said Francois-Madden.

In October we reported that suicide rates for Black female teens were on the rise. Sadly, considering what their parents and grandparents are going through, teens may feel even less comfortable voicing their concerns to their caregivers, so it’s important that adults initiate conversations about the mental and emotional wellness of the teens in their lives.

“They don’t even know they can come to adults,” Francois-Madden explained. “They’re looking at us like, ‘Well you already have enough on your plate so I can’t even tell you how I’m feeling.'”

Additionally, quarantine orders and the closing of schools has robbed hardworking high school seniors of their end-of-year activities such as prom and graduation.

“We’re kind of devaluing their experiences. Parents, aunties, uncles, mentors, and grandparents can first support by checking in with them and asking how they’re doing with the absence of senior activities,” the author and therapist advised.

They can also look for creative ways to commemorate canceled events.

“Finding a creative way to offer a prom experience — whether it’s a virtual or quarantine prom. They can still dress up and still take the pictures even if they didn’t get to go,” said Francois-Madden. “They can still post their pictures online where it kind of feels like they did something. Perhaps make their favorite meal. It’s about finding creative ways to honor them for their graduation and their hard work.”

Lastly, the New Jersey-based therapist encouraged families to find virtual programs for their teens to engage with.

“Everything is virtual. We have a lot of resources for adult Black women. I wasn’t seeing any of that done for Black girls,” said Francois-Madden, who is planning a virtual career day for students, which will take place May 22-24th.

“I recognize that during springtime, a lot of schools do a career day,” she said. “I know how important it is for Black girls to see women in look like them in various professions.”

To learn more about the virtual career fair, visit The State of Black Girls.

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