With COVID-19 impacting Native Americans at a higher rate than any other community in the country, the effects of the pandemic have been particularly devastating for children in Native communities in the United States. “It’s taking such a toll on mental health and spiritual health, … not being able to connect with loved ones or friends or community or have tribal gatherings or ceremonies,” psychologist Victoria O’Keefe told the Navajo Times.
A member of the Cherokee and Seminole Nations of Oklahoma, O’Keefe works with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health (JHCAIH), which partnered with UNICEF USA and Johns Hopkins Alliance for a Healthier World to publish a storybook that helps Native American children better understand the pandemic and its effect on their communities. Written by Crystal Kee and illustrated by Joelle Joyner, “Our Smallest Warriors, Our Strongest Medicine: Overcoming COVID-19” teaches children how to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus and encourages strength-based coping skills.
As the pandemic moves into its second year, protecting the mental health of children and young people must be a global priority.
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