REFLECTIONS - This past year our country faced a historic public health crisis (COVID-19 and Racism) that included an economic and mental health crisis. COVID-19, a medical pandemic, impacted people’s physical health, mental and emotional health, and financial well-being. There has been an increase in Anxiety, Depression, Domestic Violence, Child maltreatment, and drug overdoses. Marriages and family relationships have been impacted negatively by COVID-19 due to isolation issues.
During the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic, we experienced a pandemic that is over 400 years old, the Pandemic of Racism. As with so many chronic medical illnesses and conditions, major disparities were found in Black and Brown communities impacted by COVID-19. We also saw how racism contributed to the killing or maiming of many BIPOC people. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Jacob Blake, Jr., Jonathan Price, Daunte Wright, just to name a few, were Black people killed due to individual racism or systemic racism through police brutality. In March, 2021, a violent attack on Asians and Asian Americans occurred in Georgia killing 8 people, including 6 Asian women. Racism was cited as a core factor contributing to this horrific attack! Delaina Hyun Jung Grant, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Soon C. Park, Hyun J. Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong A. Yue, Ashley You, and Paul Andre Michels lost their lives due to racism. Since 2020 and the onset of COVID-19, there have been several attacks on Asians and Asian Americans in our country stemming from racism. Racism not only impacts a person on a physical level, it also impacts a person on a psychological level. It can impact a person’s mental health and lead to psychopathology issues such as trauma, racial trauma, depression, and anxiety.
My first year as NASW-WI Board President has been an exciting year and a year full of learning! I looked on with pride as we, as social workers, showed the world that we were and are “essential” in dealing with the public health crises of COVID-19 and Racism and the economic and mental health crisis that impacted our country as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. As Social Workers, we immediately stepped to the “frontline” to help people grieve the loss of family and friends due to COVID-19 and systemic racism, helped people to address financial issues due to the loss of employment, and helped people find the necessary resources for daily living. We were, and will continue to be, instrumental in helping to provide COVID-19 education and vaccinations, providing mental and behavioral health services via telehealth technology, so that services weren’t disrupted, and fighting against social injustices in our country by taking an antiracist stance against racism in our practice. From a board level, I worked with Marc Herstand, a phenomenal executive director with excellent advocacy and lobbying skills and a terrific board of directors, who are constantly thinking about the challenges faced by social workers in the field and how to assist them. Patricia Parker and I (Co-Chairs of the Diversity Taskforce) had the pleasure of working with Marc Herstand and members of the NASW-WI Diversity Taskforce to create a Mentorship program for students of color that focuses on leadership issues. I thank the NASW-WI Board of Directors for their support of this initiative as we look to diversify our NASW-WI Board of Directors and Membership.
As I reflect on what truly helped me through this past year, I think about the importance of gratitude and thankfulness. I am thankful and grateful for my family, church family, sorority sisters, friends, and colleagues, who provided me with love and emotional support. I am thankful and grateful for my fellow social workers, who showed the world that we too are essential! I am also thankful and grateful that I was able to see Kamela Harris, the first Black woman, sworn in as the Vice-President of the United States! The past year will be a year that goes down in our history books!
As we enter into the sweet days of Summer and a sense of “normalcy”, be kind to yourself and take time for yourself. It has been a “trying” year for all of us and we are in need of self- care. Spend time with your family and friends and doing things that make you feel happy 😊 As social workers, you, certainly deserve it and more!
Dawn Shelton-Williams, MSW, LCSW