Black Lives Matter: Mental Health Resources for People of Color

In the United States, roughly 37 million people identify as Black or African American. From Civil Rights Movement activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks to modern heroes like Anita Hill and Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Black community has made significant contributions to the fight for racial, economic, and social justice. To an increasing degree, activists are recognizing the importance of addressing disparities in mental healthcare in the fight for social justice in the Black community.

African Americans experience an increased rate of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. According to the American Psychological Association, racism is a form of trauma, and experiences of police brutality, stigma, and harassment can lead to serious psychological distress. Additionally, the prevalence of severe mental health problems within the Black and African American community is related to the lack of cultural competence in mental health care, racism, and stigma inherent in Black lives, and historical trauma witnessed by the Black community at the hands of health care professionals. 

Because the Black community exists at the intersection of racism, classism, and health inequity, Black people’s mental health needs are often ignored. Issues related to financial insecurity, police brutality, and violence and criminal justice further serve to exacerbate the impact of mental health conditions within the Black community.

Today, dozens of Black- and people of color-led organizations, clinics, and mental health collectives provide therapeutic resources for minority communities. Here are some mental health resources for people of color, including both therapy and self-care resources.

black lives matter

Therapy for Black Girls 

Dr. Joy Harden Bradford founded Therapy for Black Girls as a blog in 2014 to spark conversations about Black girls and Black women’s mental health. Since then, Therapy for Black Girls has grown to include a database of culturally competent therapists, a podcast, and The Yellow Couch Collective, a membership-based online community that fosters connection and resources for Black women’s mental health care.

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation 

In 2018, actress Taraji P. Henson founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her father, a Vietnam War veteran who struggled with the effects of wartime trauma. The Foundation aims to increase access to mental health treatment and decrease mental health stigma within Black and African American communities. The Foundation has also compiled a directory of culturally sensitive Black-centered mental health resources.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the Foundation offers free mental health services to African Americans who are “experiencing a life-changing event(s) related to or triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.” While funds for mental health treatment are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, the Foundation encourages those seeking therapy to check back for upcoming rounds of funding.

Sista Afya

Sista Afya is a Chicago-based community mental health group founded by Camesha Jones, LSCW, that provides sliding-scale therapy, mental health support groups, mental wellness education, and healing events for and by women of color. Their model focuses on community support for WOC living with mental health conditions so that all Black women can work toward “healing, growth, freedom, and self-actualization,” according to the site.

Loveland Therapy Fund

The Loveland Therapy Fund is a nonprofit organization that reduces the cost of mental health treatment for Black women and Black girls with mental illness. Academic, writer and lecturer Rachel Cargle founded the Loveland Therapy Fund in 2018 after her birthday fundraiser raised over $250,000 toward mental health services for Black women.

Black girls and women can apply to be part of an upcoming therapy cohort on the Fund’s website. 

Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective

The Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective is a group of “advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists, and activists “dedicated to “a world where there are no barriers to Black healing. “The group takes a healing justice approach by emphasizing the structural and intersectional nature of harm and trauma, along with joy and resilience in the Black community. 

The group also offers a directory of Black therapists certified in teletherapy, a video series on Black healing, an event series Black men’s wellness, and an online toolkit for self-care. 

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Therapy Group of DC 

The Therapy Group of DC is an extensive mental health system of health professionals, psychologists, social workers, and therapists who support those who need mental health care.

According to the mental health experts at The Therapy Group of DC, working with a mental health professional who truly understands you is critical to the success of your treatment. The Therapy Group DC helps individuals struggling with mental illness, mental health problems, and overwhelming emotions find mental health professionals that meet their therapy needs. 

Whether you’re looking for a healthcare provider with cultural competency or prefer receiving mental health support from a POC, The Therapy Group of DC can connect you with a qualified health professional with whom you feel comfortable.

Self-Care Tips

Between the loss of life from COVID-19 and deaths at the hands of police officers, the Black and African American community is especially vulnerable to mental health issues and severe forms of mental health conditions right now. To deal with the ongoing tragedy that, at times, can feel deeply personal, practicing self-care is essential.

Reduce your time on social media.

Video stills, news reports of police violence, and racist posts targeting Black people and African Americans can be triggering. Stepping away from social media can help you give yourself time to heal and focus on your psychological and emotional well-being. If you’re addicted to social media, consider using a website-blocking app to stay away from Facebook and Twitter. 

Create safe spaces for yourself.

According to Psychology Today, contact between White people and people of color is often more beneficial for White people. In other words, safe spaces created by White people may not be safe for POC, and White people may demonstrate a lack of knowledge toward the experiences of POC. 

As Mater Mea’s wellness columnist Alex Elle writes, “We can create our own versions of emotional safety wherever we choose. It’s all about finding what works for you and your mood. “It’s important to create safe spaces free of hostility to allow yourself time to heal. 

Connect with others.

Your safe space might include people, such as family members and friends, who love and support you. Surrounding yourself with friends who understand is essential during these moments, where so many people are ready to question and invalidate the feelings and experiences of Black Americans and POC.

If you’re a person of color, Ethel’s Club offers livestream classes, digital wellness sessions, and the opportunity to connect with a global network of young people and POC.

Do something for yourself.

Whether you’re participating in Black Lives Matter protests, making phone calls to representatives, or reading the latest news updates, staying involved is tiring. Contrary to what you might believe, it’s possible to participate in the movement for racial justice while setting aside time for yourself. It’s important to take time for your health and well-being and the ones you love.

Doing something for yourself might mean catching up on your favorite podcasts, joining faith communities in your area, spending time with family members, or practicing meditation.

Find a therapist.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black people are 20% more likely “to report having severe psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.” The overwhelming stress of living under racism can create symptoms similar to those of PTSD, and repeated race-based trauma can take a significant toll on mental health.

If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health issues, remind yourself that these are normal reactions. Right now, mental health services are more accessible over the phone and computer, making it easier to find support from culturally competent mental health professionals. If you’re not sure how to get started, consider using the Therapy Group of DC to find a therapist who meets your specific therapy needs.

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