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The Importance of Quality Mental Health Services in Black Communities

I recently had a conversation with a dear friend of mine. She tells me about a podcast on therapy and racism from the perspective of two members of the Latinx community who identify as Afro-Latinx and U.S born Dominican. I decided to check it out and wanted to further educate myself and share with you my thoughts. Deep in my research, my friend sent me a link on NPR Code Switch called, Can Therapy Solve Racism? along with other resources I would like to share with you at the bottom of this post… let’s talk about the podcast first.

Co-host Isabeth Mendoza, talks about Blackness, therapy, and trauma in a recent podcast episode from NPR Code Switch. The podcast titled "Can Therapy Solve Racism" tells the stories of two Black Latinx individuals who use therapy to understand their racial identity and to combat anti-blackness in their own lives. The podcast mentions that in 2020, nearly 20% of Americans turned to therapy. Approximately 2.8 million more people in 2020 than prior years, according to the podcast, turned to therapy to process a global pandemic, a controversial presidential election process, as well as the racial reckoning around Black Lives Matter and police brutality. Mendoza and her guest, Tanya Hernandez, a law professor, and author of "Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias And The Struggle For Equality.", elaborate what can therapy accomplish regarding racial trauma?

The two guests on the podcast, Grisell Valencia and Edwin Quezada, share their journey to find therapy, highlighting their struggle to find a therapist of color that understands their racial identity. According to the American Psychological Association, 4% of therapists are Black/African American, and 5% are Latinx, although it is uncertain how many are Afro-Latinx or where they would fit in the data. Given that there are very few therapists of color in the field, this reality makes it harder for Black communities to have access to mental health services to process difficult moments, like Black Lives Matter protests. Aside from a limited number of Black therapists, the cost of therapy can be very expensive. This contributes to another barrier that makes it harder for low-income, working-class individuals to have access to these mental health resources. In general, the U.S. tends to have negative attitudes and beliefs towards people who struggle with mental health and are seeking mental health resources, such as therapy. This is also the case of Black communities where it can be incredibly difficult and taboo to talk about mental health.

Therapy itself cannot undo or end racism, but it can provide a space for grounding and healing. The racism, discrimination, and inequity that Black people face impacts their mental health. According to the Health and Human Service Office of Minority Health, U.S. Black adults are more likely than white people to report persistent emotional distress, such as sadness and hopelessness. Even though Black communities clearly need mental health resources, several barriers prevent them from getting the help they need. The rest of this blog highlights several Black mental health collectives and Black therapists to follow on Instagram and books to read.

Through education, advocacy, creative media and storytelling, the list of resources below aims to remove the barriers Black people experience when accessing emotional health care and healing. Some of the resources are search engines to help find Black therapists, while others focus on self-care for Black communities, and others go in depth on areas like trauma, therapy for Black women, and mood disorders. We hope that this short list of resources and content, therapists to follow online, and book recommendations can help bridge the gap on access Black mental health. This is a movement led by therapists and professional counselors who have made it their mission to help their community have access to tools and resources to persevere. A very special shoutout to the Black therapists that are putting in the work and dedicating their career to become healers for their community.

The therapy directory mentioned by Gisell Valencia in the podcast Therapy for Black Girls

A therapy directory for those residing in Chicago Chicago Black Therapists

Books to read:

Thriving in the Wake of Trauma: A Multicultural Guide - ​​Thema Bryant-Davis

(she also has a podcast you can check out here The Homecoming Podcast with Dr. Therma)

The Black Girl’s Guide to Healing Emotional Wounds - Nijiama Smalls

Understanding Black Trauma: 11 Steps to Overcoming Racial Trauma Within the Black Community - Elaine Springer - Daniels

The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health - Rheeda Walker

Soul Healing: A Guided Journal for Black Women - Sharron Lynn

Anti-Racist Psychotherapy: Confronting Systemic Racism and Healing Racial Trauma - David Archer

For those of you that have Instagram, go ahead and follow the content creators below. Simply click on the username, and it should direct you to their page immediately. They all provide an abundant amount of content, grounding techniques, affirmations and self love quotes, etc... Check them out!

As Black History Month continues beyond February, we will continue to celebrate you today and everyday by providing resources and be an avenue of information for you to take with you.

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