We have just finished our second edition of the African American Child: Development and Challenges. I am so excited about this edition as there have been significant improvements in the lives African American children and we have documented those improvements. We have also included information on African American adolescents in this edition of our book. We have decided to focus specifically on discussing their health and well-being, their academic achievement and their peer relationships.
So what are the gaps and where is the need for research, intervention and programs? I would say we need to focus on the unmet mental health needs of African American children and African American adolescents.
Why mental health?
First, there are too few comprehensive studies on the mental health challenges that are unique to African American children and African American adolescents. Consequently, clinicians, mental health practitioners, and those who work with African American children and African American adolescents have a limited tool box of treatment options to draw from. We offer suggestions for increasing research and expanding therapeutic approaches in this edition.
Second, there is evidence to suggest that the current corpus of treatment approaches may not be the most effective treatment approaches for African American children and African American adolescents and this may account in part for the tendency for African children, adolescents and families to discontinue therapy shortly following the first session.
Third, according to data released by the Youth Behavioral Risk Survey (2011), there has been an overall increase in reported depression among African American adolescents in general and African American adolescent females in particular. African American adolescent females are more likely to express suicidal ideation, and more likely to report experiencing depression frequently within a week. Furthermore, neighborhood violence, trauma and parental incarceration experienced by some African American children and African American adolescents place them at greater risk than their counterparts from other ethnic backgrounds, for immediate and long term mental health challenges.