ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Mass shootings. Gun violence. Poverty. These are enough to cause anxiety and any number of other feelings in adults. An event in Rochester on Saturday took a neighborhood-based approach to mental health in children.
When you consider factors like ethnicity and poverty, advocates say many Rochester communities have major gaps in mental health resources. A community health fair at the Thomas Ryan Community Center represents part of an effort to change that, with a focus on mental health in communities of color.
“It was important for us to go in communities, and not like traditional services that want you to come to them,” said Sara Taylor, who coordinated the event. “We needed to be in the heart of the community where people live.”
Taylor and a group of other parents started the BIPOC PEEK Mental Health Project two years ago after realizing there were not enough conversations in the community geared toward mental health. At the time they couldn’t have imagined just how much the need for access to mental health care for children would grow.
“Think about what we’ve been through in the last two years, with the pandemic,” she said. “In school, out of school. Sports change, socialization change. Now we can’t even go to a restaurant to eat, you can’t go to a grocery store without some level of fear that is there.”
The group focuses on breaking the stigma on discussing mental health. It’s a stigma Taylor says remains prevalent in the Black community.
“There’s a lot of shame and blame that comes with that mental health diagnosis,” she said. “And so that is often a reason why people don’t seek help.”
Help is coming from within the community to address an issue that needs it now more than ever.
“We just wanted to make sure that families knew it’s okay to get help,” said Taylor. “And it’s okay to talk about mental health.”