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Mental health in primary pediatric care for LGBTQ and minority communities

Posted at 8:35 AM, Dec 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-24 08:35:01-05

RIVERIA BEACH, Fla. — Tis' the season to shop, or for parents like Avens Lemieux, spend more quality time with the kids, ”If we don’t empower them — no one else will,” he said as chimes are heard on the playground.

But already his children have learned life is not like chimes, not everyone in South Florida appreciates sweet notes played together.

”You have sometimes Hispanic kids who are scared to play with young African American kids. Or Caucasian kids who are afraid to play with African American kids or African American kids a lot of the times pick with the kids of other races,” said Lemieux.

Lemieux said a routine trip to a park can turn toxic, ”When I took my son to the park and he went to go lay with the little white girl she just ran and she was screaming — she was acting like it was a dog or something and she just wasn’t familiar with dealing with other races of children.”

A campaign ad by Riviera Beach non-profit Young Men of Distinction suggests just how unpredictable some people act. Exposing the damaging effects of racial profiling.

Two of the three actors featured in the PSA said they have faced profiling in public spaces, “Oh, be who you are accept everybody. It’s really not like that,” said Jena Obilas.

The campaign is part of the adultification and dehumanization
of Black girls and boys.

A study from the American Psychological Association finds Black youth are viewed as four-and-a-half years older than they are. They are viewed as less innocent and culpable of crime.

”Black children are a lot of times criminalized," said Lemieux.

Those views are impacting their mental health said Dr. Eugenia Isabel Flores Millender, RN, PMHNP-BC, FSU College of Nursing, ”The increase in stress, trauma and the increase in the need for mental health services.”

Doctor Flores Millender point to date from sources like the Trevor Project. A 2021 survey finds Black youth, multi-racial youth, and Latinx Youth are attempting suicide more than their white peers. And 42% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered suicide. A staggering 75% of LGBTQ youth report discrimination based on their orientation or identity.

”Adverse childhood experiences. Those are the things that we experience growing up as children that are stressful and traumatic to our way of life. And those things are embedded in our system. And as we become adults it impacts who we are. And how we make decisions and how we see the world,” said Dr. Flores Millender.

”My friend’s son killed himself — he hung himself at 8-years-old in the shower,” said Lemieux.

Doctor Flores Millender said 64% of all children in the USA will experience one adverse childhood experience.

”Looking at these 10 questions but we know there are other circumstances that lead to trauma,” said Renee Layman, Center for Child Counseling CEO.

”If you are a Black male who is also a sexual minority you have multiple layers of racism, discrimination, and barriers,” said Dr. Flores Millender.

Studies also show mental health is linked to physical health, ”You’re increasing your risk for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, negative bad behaviors,ihDr. Flores Millender said.

These findings are part of the reason Palm Beach Pediatrics partnered with the Center for Child Counseling in Oct.—fully integrating mental health into primary pediatric care for approximately 20,000 patients.

”When you look at behaviors in the classroom we’re more likely to discriminate or project that these behaviors are problematic if it’s a Black or Brown boy verses a White boy — even by Black teachers," Layman said.

She said LGBTQ youth are reporting higher levels of anxiety, toxic stress, and adverse childhood experiences
across Palm Beach County, ”We know that if we can identify these risk factors early and do something about it we can mitigate the impact of that adversity and trauma for children," said Layman. ”Being in childcare centers, being in schools, being in schools and communities and the natural extension of that is being in private practice.”

A big stride in evidence-based intervention, but Lemieux said parents have their own job, ”My message to everybody is it’s in the home. It’s all in the home. Your kids are going to do what you teach them or what they see or learn."