By Sara Taylor
Last year, Sara Taylor and a group of parents found themselves overwhelmed navigating the mental health system for their children experiencing a psychiatric crisis. They decided to take action to address some of the inequities and barriers across the mental health system.
As we ponder the correlation and the intersection of the heightened levels of distrust related to the COVID-19 vaccine and fatal incidents where black men in psychiatric crisis died while in the custody of police or watch children pepper sprayed or mishandled by law enforcement officers, how do we help our families who may be ashamed and suffering silently? Help is needed to address the social and emotional health of their children to heal and understand the impact of their trauma. The stigma of mental illness, the distrust of providers, and the complex system of care are contributing factors preventing the families of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) from actively engaging in mental health treatment. We suffer in silence and it is casually normalized as trauma, while the accurate more offensive identification is racial trauma because of the systems’ structure of racism.
As a parent, it has been heart wrenching, on this three-year journey attempting to navigate the mental health system and live through 15+ mental hygiene arrest. This experience feels like scenes from a horror movie and pushed me to convene other parents and caregivers of color to start the BIPOC PEEEEEEK project. We intend to break the stigma and silence on our terms and our turf to save lives. PEEEEEEK is Parents Elevating their voice to Educate and Empower Each other to Eliminate disparities and inequities in services related to the Emotional Health of our Kids.
We have two basic goals: 1.) Foster a BIPOC network of parents and caregivers with children impacted by mental illness or other behavioral health conditions, and 2.) forge change across mental health services to foster a system built to respond to the unique needs of BIPOC children and families.
The BIPOC Parent Mental Health Project is leading a “Parent Lens Mental Health Simulator” Systems Change project that will address the barriers and pain points for all parents and caregivers who struggle navigating the complex mental health system. On October 28th, we held our first planning session with more than 30 parents who shared their experience across the mental health system highlighting the success, challenges and opportunities. Our next parent voice planning session will be held in partnership with other parent groups on Saturday, December 11th.
Our project will continue to advocate for the following priorities:
- Parent voice and input beyond advisory boards and leading system change strategies
- Prioritize funding for mental health funding coming to this community for parent led and grassroots efforts that will meet the needs families of color in communities
- Transform the mental health system to improve access, crisis services, culturally responsive care and monitor provider accountability
For more information about our project, parent/caregiver support groups, simulator planning sessions please visit www.bipocpartentvoice.org