10:14pm Sunday 13 October 2019

VCU African American Studies event in East End aims to raise awareness of children's mental health challenges

The event, which will be open to the public, will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at Peter Paul Development Center, located at 1708 N. 22nd St.

It will feature youth performances involving singing, dance, spoken word, poetry and visual art; a panel discussion about mental illness and challenges faced by youth; youth leadership classes; and breakout sessions for parents on topics such as “stress, worry and anxiety,” “mental health first aid,” “mental health resources for parents” and more.

“The overarching focus is building resilience in young children coping with traumatic events and how to overcome childhood adversities,” said Evandra Catherine, director of the Office of Community Engagement in VCU’s Department of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

Aashir Nasim, Ph.D., chair of the Department of African American Studies, said the department decided to organize the event because “so often it’s the children of African-American families, underserved families, that suffer the burden of inadequate mental health services in urban, suburban and rural communities.”

“This unjust burden falls on the shoulders of African-American youth in the form of school disciplinary referrals, unnecessary encounters with law enforcement, and unfortunate changes to their and their families’ life course,” he said. “The Department of African American Studies has an inherent responsibility to not only call attention to these issues, but also to act, and to take the lead toward helping to develop comprehensive, coordinated mental health services for African-American youth.”

The event is being held in conjunction with Richmond’s Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 16, as well as the National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 7.

Along with the Department of African American Studies, the event is sponsored by the Virginia Treatment Center for Children in VCU’s Department of Psychiatry, Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, National Alliance on Mental Illness Virginia, Children’s Mental Health Resource Center, Raising Interest in Social Equality, African & African American Student Empowerment Project and the Richmond Association of Black Social Workers.

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