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Pandemic Takes Heavy Toll on Children’s Mental Health

Michelle Cabrera, executive director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA), spotlighted the health needs of minority youth. She explained that all over the nation — and in California — youth are suffering from a mental health crisis, leading to increasing numbers of suicide and high levels of anxiety in schools.

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Black children are experiencing depression associated with pandemic.
Black children are experiencing depression associated with pandemic.

By Charlene Muhammad | California Black Media

The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a heavy toll on the health, finances, and mobility of people around the world, affecting almost everyone on the planet.

Youth, in particular, have been experiencing an uptick in mental health cases, including depression, in a trend U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is calling an emerging crisis.

On December 7, Murthy released a 42-page health advisory drawing the country’s attention to the “urgent” need to help youth facing mental health problems. He said 1 in 3 students in the U.S. say they experience sustained periods of sadness and hopelessness. That number represents a 40% increase from 2009 to 2019.

The pandemic has made those conditions worse.

“The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation,” said Murthy. “Especially in this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side. This advisory shows us how we can all work together to step up for our children during this dual crisis.”

Recently, a panel of experts tackled the issue during a news briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services titled “The Pandemic’s Heavy Toll on Teen Mental Health.”

Michelle Cabrera, executive director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association (CBHDA), spotlighted the health needs of minority youth. She explained that all over the nation — and in California — youth are suffering from a mental health crisis, leading to increasing numbers of suicide and high levels of anxiety in schools.

“The numbers of children and youth in acute mental health crises shot up two and sometimes three-fold. We have had children as young as 8 years old who have been hospitalized due to suicidal ideation,” stated Cabrera.

Behavioral health experts say transitioning students back to in-person learning results in higher rates of children and youth experiencing mental health crises, she said.

According to Cabrera, existing programs lack support for youth in Black and Native populations, and records show that major disparities are also present among professionals within the behavioral health field.

“For example, the access to services and programs that may be used in white communities to combat mental health problems are not made available in Black communities,” she said.

Cabrera mentioned that there is also a career crisis in behavioral health, and that by 2022, these benefits will be put in place to help abate the employment crisis in California and all over the nation.

“The pandemic has also changed the statistics about drug and substance abuse in America,” Cabrera continued. “Data has shown an increase in alcohol and opioid consumption in young people, who are also experiencing a lot more overdoses because of their consumption of fentanyl in the drugs that are used,” she said.

Youth also struggle with returning to school physically, bullying, and a lack of programs to address their mental health issues.

Dr. Latonya Wood is the director of clinical training at Pepperdine University in Malibu. She delved specifically into the data about Black children who are suffering from mental health-related issues. She explained that depression is being expressed and understood differently among Blacks.

For example, young Black males interpret their emotions and mental conditions differently. They may not act in ways that are typically associated with depression, such as sadness or melancholy. Black youth typically translate those emotions into aggression and more physical reactions.

In addition, the pandemic has amplified some of the disconnections in the Black community, said Dr. Wood. She explained that there has not been consistent help in public health organizations that serve Black communities.

“Seldomly, there is relatability to the Black community. So African Americans are going to be lacking resources because they don’t know how to reach them,” she said.

Wood said, historically, Black people have not had a reason to fully trust mental health providers. A recent survey asked a group of Black youth about mental health care during COVID. It found that Black youth do not feel like mental healthcare providers care for them, that they only want money, and they do not understand the lived experiences, according to Dr. Wood.

“I think that really reflects the lack of culturally informed and trauma-informed care and really understanding the experiences of Black youth in some ways were traumatic during COVID,” said Wood.”

More Black people are seeking Black providers, but they number just short of about 4% of the psychologists in America, according to a 2020 Workforce Study, completed by the American Psychological Association, she continued.

As a result, Black people suffer usually long wait times to even be seen by a therapist or to receive care. Wood stressed that finding the right care for people dealing with mental disorders in the Black community is very important.

Solutions for these issues were suggested at the level of community-based care provided at places where people congregate like school, church, and the barbershop, among others. Those spaces can serve as supportive venues where mental health care or interventions can be accessible.

“The youth need support systems in place in order to help guard against the extreme negatives that come with poor mental health,” said Wood.

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New Bivalent Boosters Adds Protection from Omicron Variant Ahead of Predicted Surge  

“Many in the community have expressed concerns that the vaccine was created too fast to be safe and reliable,” Brooks said, “The mRNA platform … that’s been around for 11 years or so; it was developed when we had SARS CoV-1 so a lot of people forget because it didn’t go pandemic and then MERS, which was Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, which similar, so we use that mRNA platform.”

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Zccording to Dr. Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer, Watts Healthcare, “unvaccinated people [account for] 2.4 times more cases, 4.6 times more hospitalizations, 8 times more deaths.”
Zccording to Dr. Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer, Watts Healthcare, “unvaccinated people [account for] 2.4 times more cases, 4.6 times more hospitalizations, 8 times more deaths.”

Maxim Elramsisy | California Black Media

California has started administering updated COVID-19 booster shots after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the use of new versions of boosters of the vaccine for people aged 12 and older.

The Western State Scientific Safety Review Workgroup independently reviewed the boosters and recommended that they be given to people who have already received primary vaccinations, regardless of the booster status.

The updated boosters will be “bivalent,” offering protection against the original coronavirus strains, as well as improved immunity to the currently dominant BA.4 and BA.5 strains, also known as the Omicron variants.

The Pfizer/BioNTech bivalent booster is available for people 12 years and older, while the Moderna bivalent booster is approved for those 18 years and older. The bivalent boosters have not been authorized for children under the age of 12.

“We are getting closer to an analogy with the flu vaccines,” Dr. Gil Chavez, Senior Medical Officer, Office of the State Epidemiologist, California Department of Public Health, said during a recent ethnic media sponsored COVID-19 panel discussion with other medical doctors and public health officials: Dr. Maggie Park, County Public Health Officer, San Joaquin County Public Health Services; Dr. Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer, Watts Healthcare; and Dr. Eva Smith, Medical Director, K’ima:w Medical Center.

According to Chavez, “Whereas you know every year we have to get an influenza vaccine to ensure that we get the updated vaccine … with COVID-19, we are moving in the same direction where we believe that it will be important to have at least an annual booster.”

“The goal, and our hope, is to continue on a path of a low number of cases and prevent a surge in COVID cases this winter. That is why public health officials urge individuals to get the updated booster,” Chavez said.

Officials reiterate that, though boosters will prevent disease for some people, they are critically important to prevent people who contract COVID from getting seriously ill, to the point where they may be hospitalized and potentially die.

The vaccines are also an important tool for preventing “long COVID,” where symptoms such as headaches, brain fog, and fatigue can be prolonged for more than six months.

In July, a surge in infections driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant almost pushed Los Angeles County, for example, to reinstitute a universal indoor mask mandate.

“BA.5 has been the predominant circulating variant since July and is still and now accounting for about 87% of all newly diagnosed cases of COVID, with BA.4 pretty much accounting for the rest,” said Park. “I want to say that the rollout of this new booster is actually quite timely, as many models are predicting that we’re facing another COVID-19 surge this fall or winter and we need to be ready.”

While scientists believe many people infected in the most recent COVID surge will have natural immunity for some time, this type of protection begins to wane after around 90 days. So, even people who have had COVID in the past should consider getting a booster around 3 months after being infected.

In California, vaccine hesitancy persists. 72% of all people have received primary vaccinations, but only 58.8% of people eligible for boosters have received a booster.

This is worrisome because, according to Dr. Brooks, “unvaccinated people [account for] 2.4 times more cases, 4.6 times more hospitalizations, 8 times more deaths.”

Brooks shared a concept to combat vaccine hesitancy by responding to the common points of resistance in his patients, called the three C’s – complacency, confidence, and convenience.

Complacency afflicts those who think that COVID is over — or are fatigued and overwhelmed by the fact that, for the past couple of years, the virus has dominated many facets of life. Yet, it is still evolving to become more highly transmissible and more evasive of immunity from infection or vaccination. According to statistics from the Los Angeles County of Public Health, the Omicron variant killed people in all age groups at a higher rate than motor vehicle crashes.

People are concerned about the safety of the vaccines because of “misinformation that’s being perpetuated in our communities,” according to Park. “But with all the millions of doses that have been given in the United States and around the world today, we have so much information about them, and we do know that they’re safe,” she said.

“Many in the community have expressed concerns that the vaccine was created too fast to be safe and reliable,” Brooks said, “The mRNA platform … that’s been around for 11 years or so; it was developed when we had SARS CoV-1 so a lot of people forget because it didn’t go pandemic and then MERS, which was Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, which similar, so we use that mRNA platform.”

Many people are also contending that the shots don’t work, as they are still getting infected. Park said, “People say[ing] ‘My friend is fully vaccinated and boosted but she’s still got COVID,’ and to that, I say yes, but is she still alive? And yes, of course, she is. We never promised that the vaccinations would mean you wouldn’t get COVID … what we know is that your chance of getting COVID decreases with vaccines, but the decrease is even greater when it comes to your chance of being hospitalized or dying.”

As for convenience, vaccines are now available at locations across the state with relative ease of access and at no charge. There are no anticipated supply constraints, so there are no groups that are being given priority. Those seeking vaccines or boosters can book an appointment at Myturn.ca.gov.

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Advice

Time is Money: Three Considerations to Help You Move Through the Homebuying Process More Quickly

It’s in your best interest to shop around and find a lender who will help you find the lowest rates and fees. Prequalifying with multiple lenders can be a good way to check quotes, and it also allows you to keep a pulse on how the rapidly changing interest rates can impact the amount of house you can afford.

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While the homebuying experience can be stressful, we’re here to help you find the best options available for you.

By Denise Richardson, Community Home Lending Advisor in Oakland

It’s an interesting time to be buying a home as markets across the country continue to experience historically low inventory and high demand. While the competition has been intense for buyers, there are signs that the real estate market could be cooling down as existing home sales continue to fall due to rising interest rates and other factors.

Before jumping in, prospective buyers should educate themselves on the process. Beyond the search, buyers need to think about financing, prequalification and closing costs to be in the best position to move quickly on the home of their dreams.

If you’re one of the many Americans in the market for a home, completing these three steps will help increase your chances of having an offer accepted:

Get Prequalified for a Mortgage

Getting prequalified for a mortgage is an essential first step in the homebuying process. It gives you an idea of how much money you can borrow, which will guide your search for a home. It also shows sellers that you’re creditworthy and serious about purchasing the home. Lastly, being prequalified expedites your timeline for receiving a loan, which is enticing for a seller who has multiple interested buyers.

Take Inventory of Your Upfront Costs

The next step in the homebuying process is to take inventory of the upfront costs, which is often one of the main challenges for homebuyers.

While there is no way to avoid a down payment, there are loan options available that require as little as 3% of the purchase price as a down payment for eligible homebuyers

There are also many location-based and lender-backed financial resources available to help level the playing field and assist with upfront costs. Chase offers homebuyer grants up to $5,000 that can be used toward a down payment and/or closing costs in eligible neighborhoods across the country. Qualified buyers can earn an additional $500 by getting a DreaMaker mortgage and completing a certified homebuyer education course.

Consult a Home Lending Advisor

It’s also a good idea to consult a home lending advisor to walk you through some of the more complex details of homebuying. An advisor can help you understand technical details and key terms like upfront costs, market trends, property tax laws in different zip codes and fair housing rules, so that nothing comes as a surprise when it’s time to close on the home.

An advisor will also ensure you’re taking advantage of lender-backed resources available to help get you into your home on time. For example, Chase’s Closing Guarantee, commits to closing customers on their new homes in as little as 21 days or gives them $5,000 cash. The program offers buyers peace of mind, knowing that they can close on their new home without delay or receive compensation that can be put toward additional costs.

It’s in your best interest to shop around and find a lender who will help you find the lowest rates and fees. Prequalifying with multiple lenders can be a good way to check quotes, and it also allows you to keep a pulse on how the rapidly changing interest rates can impact the amount of house you can afford.

While the homebuying experience can be stressful, we’re here to help you find the best options available for you. There are also plenty of other resources available — especially if you are a first-time homebuyer — to boost your homebuying knowledge, like the Beginner to Buyer podcast, which offers prospective homebuyers a place to get answers to all their homebuying questions. Every episode offers conversations with real buyers and expert guests about each step of the process, from mortgage application to closing.

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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Advice

5 Things to Do When You Get Your First Paycheck

“That first paycheck is such a great moment and an opportunity to start managing your money. Direct deposit and automatic savings are some ways that we can stay on top of our goals,” said September Hargrove, Northern California Director for Community Banking at Chase.

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Direct deposit and automatic savings are some ways that we can stay on top of our goals.
Direct deposit and automatic savings are some ways that we can stay on top of our goals.

Getting your first paycheck is an exciting experience and an opportunity to kickstart your financial journey. Mapping out your short and long-term financial goals early on will allow you to build a strong foundation for your future.

“That first paycheck is such a great moment and an opportunity to start managing your money. Direct deposit and automatic savings are some ways that we can stay on top of our goals,” said September Hargrove, Northern California Director for Community Banking at Chase.

September Hargrove, Northern California Director for Community Banking at Chase.

September Hargrove, Northern California Director for Community Banking at Chase.

Here are five things to help you make the most of that first paycheck:

Open a Bank Account: Checking accounts allow you to deposit money, make transfers, withdraw cash, pay bills and take care of other banking transactions either in person, online or through your bank’s mobile app. Most accounts come with a debit card that can be used anywhere cards are accepted. What’s important is that you’re fitted with the account that best suits your needs. Learn more about the documents you need to open an account.

Set up Direct Deposit: For quick access to the money you earn, set up direct deposit. It will make your funds available in your account on pay day, making it easier to pay your bills, send money and meet financial obligations on time, and without needing a trip to the bank or ATM.

Set Up Automatic Savings: Autosave helps you reach your savings goals with automatic transfers from your Chase checking account to your Chase savings account – just set it, forget it and watch your savings grow! For instance, every time you get paid, pay yourself first or set up an automatic transfer of even $1 per day. Autosave allows you to adjust your goals or pause at any time. Savings goals are personal and setting money aside to build an emergency fund for unexpected life events is a great habit to start.

Tackle Your Debt: Assess your current debt—like student loans or credit cards—then tackle the most critical ones first with a high interest rate. A local Chase banker can help you create a plan, so it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming task. Having a plan often comes with assurance and peace of mind.

Plan for the future: If you have access to a retirement account through your work, sign up for it – your employer will automatically deduct the money from your paycheck and many companies even offer a match. It is never too early to start saving for your future. The more proactive you are in planning for these life events, the less of a burden they become when the time comes.

For more information, visit your local Chase branch and speak to a banker or visit chase.com/communityteam to schedule a visit.

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