How Can We Help to Alleviate COVID-19 Related Prolonged Grief in Harlem?

November 30, 2021 @ 5:23 pm

A team of researchers from the School of Social Work and community leaders will be working with Columbia World Projects to help reduce the ongoing bereavement that our neighboring Black community has endured during this pandemic.

According to data from the CDC, deaths from COVID-19 in Black communities are twice as high as in white ones. Coupled with the persistent impact of systematic racism, Black individuals are now, on average, facing a disproportionate amount of prolonged grief.

In an effort to help Harlem’s Black community alleviate their long-term emotional pain from this pandemic, the School of Social Work’s Dr. Katherine Shear and Dr. Desmond Upton Patton, along with Dr. Johnnie Green, President and CEO of Mobilizing Preachers and Community, are leading a team for Columbia World Projects’ Confronting COVID-19 Loss in Harlem.

“The pandemic has shone a very bright light on the ongoing issues of racism, inequity, and unequal access to resources throughout our society,” Melissa Begg, Dean of Columbia’s School of Social Work, said. “The loss of each and every person will be long felt, and can never be rectified. But we can take action, as this project demonstrates, to address the mourning and reduce the suffering among those affected.”

“Our neighbors in Harlem have disproportionately suffered during this pandemic,” said Dr. Patton. “As social workers and activists, we are called to care for the community around us, and we will put their needs at the center of this project.”

Since 2013, Dr. Shear, through the Center for Prolonged Grief, has sought methods and created intervention tools to identify and treat prolonged grief. The Columbia School of Social Work team will work with community leaders in Harlem to engage in focus groups that will introduce Dr. Shear’s Prolonged Grief digital tools.

“This project aims to elucidate what role racism has played in the prolonged grief of Harlem’s Black community in order to address effects of COVID-19 loss from the events of these past two years,” said Dr. Shear.

Dr. Patton and his SAFELab team will then employ computational methods to analyze the data collected from the digital narratives of Black Harlem residents. Findings from this data collection will be used to further adapt the Prolonged Grief tools to the community’s specific needs.

Learn more about Confronting COVID-19 Loss in Harlem.