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Mental health must be a priority

As racial tensions remain high all across the nation and the Black Lives Matter agenda pursues institutional improvements to promote equality and equity, our Champaign-Urbana community should provide emotional support for those affected by racial disparities.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.N. declared a global mental-health emergency, and since then, the issue has only been exacerbated. This is especially true for African Americans who face daily racial stressors, individual and systemic. Even before the pandemic, Black Americans were reportedly more likely to develop severe anxiety and depression despite being less likely to access mental-health services compared to other groups.

Although higher institutions are reluctant to address these issues, our community is not exempt from responsibility.

As a student social-justice educator at the University of Illinois, I have seen firsthand how impactful and difficult racial stress can be on individuals. I have heard countless stories of how exhausting the constant pursuit of justice is.

Although I do not experience racism myself, my friends and neighbors deserve better.

This is the time for our diverse community to come together. Mental-health resources should look deeper into the needs of people of color, especially Black people, and do better to make their services available to them. As individuals, we should work harder to reduce stigma around mental illness, become better listeners, and practice advocating for our community members to get the help they need.

ESELA JACKSON

Urbana

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