Black history month: Grief and mental health.

2020 has had the world share similar experiences, one of them being grief. As we get into October, a month termed as Black History month, let us take a moment to think about the youth and the unspoken grief they may be feeling but failing to express or understand. It is not only the youth who have experienced this grief in 2020, however, their voices matter in shaping tomorrow’s mental health resources available to them according to further discussions and deeper understanding of such issues.

Before George Floyd was tragically killed in May 2020, there was the tragic death of a loved and respected celebrity/ role model, Kobe Bryant, through a helicopter crash in January 2020, in the USA. Two months later in March 2020, Breonna Taylor, an emergency medicine worker, was shot and killed in her apartment, in the USA. In August 2020 there was the sudden death of a loved, respected celebrity and black superhero role model, Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa from Black Panther). These are just a few of the many black lives that have been lost and negatively impacted their families, certain groups and the world. It has indeed been a year of grief after grief worldwide.

How did the youths worldwide feel about all these black people’s deaths?

How are they feeling now?

Doka in 1989, said disenfranchised grief is “the grief that a person experiences when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, publicly mourned, or socially supported” (p.4). A concept widely accepted by researchers, practitioners and educators mainly in the field of death but lacking when it comes to mental health issues.

Collective grief, as the word states, is the joint grief that a community, group or a nation goes through. It could be because of a pandemic and/or a death like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s death or people who meant something to someone. The fear and memories of what happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor linger on and trigger something in most, bringing about anticipatory grief in most likely the youth, who believe their lives may be in danger. In danger, not only with those that they are meant to trust, like law enforcement, but with the world in general as it may seem their lives do not matter. This anticipatory grief can make them feel like any day may be their last or that "bad" is going to happen to them anyway. This in turn, affecting their mental health.

How then does one look forward to being the best they can be, mentally and physically, when there are issues that are seemingly unknown, not understood and not prioritised?

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