The current pandemic has affected everyone’s mental health adversely. While the ongoing virus scare has taken everyone shell-shocked, there are still ongoing issues being faced by various sectors. This just adds to the already sore wounds of racism, discrimination, and stigmatization faced by the Black community. Here are 4 ways to support Black Community’s mental wellness.
Supporting Black Community
However, there have been efforts to address these problems, and the innovations have been pioneered by individuals who developed mobile and online platforms to share insights on the topic and encourage mental health care for Black people. Additionally, the state has also launched initiatives to reach out to the affected areas and provide resources to aid this course. Here are some of them:
- Black Organizations
Some numerous organizations and brands actively involved in addressing mental health issues, including:
- The Loveland Foundation
The Loveland Foundation aims to make mental health care accessible for Black women in society. The foundation holds therapy sessions across the country in multiple avenues to make therapy accessible to the Black community. It also partners with different mental health resources to provide final assistance to the cohorts. Its social media page offers a mix of insights from different Black mental health experts and self-care tips. It also offers resources for meditation.
- Balanced Black Girl
Balanced Black Girl is an art-based social media feed focusing on black people. It also features podcast episodes of the same name. Posts and insights are being shared regularly about creating and living a balanced life despite the challenges the Black community faces. Additionally, Balanced Black Girl provides more resources on self-care and mental health on their other resources.
- Black Female Therapists
Black Female Therapists is an organization offering self-care reminders, inspirational messages, and updates from different Black mental health practitioners found in the state. There’s also an initiative recently launched by the group to connect Black people with therapists who are willing to do free virtual sessions.
- Ethel’s Club
Ethel’s Club is a social and wellness club for all people of color. The club is based in Brooklyn and has evolved during the pandemic, currently offering virtual book clubs, creative workshops, workouts, artists Q&A sessions, wellness salons, and so much more. The membership fee is only USD$17 per month. However, there are a few free resources for someone who can’t get the monthly fee.
- Black Mental Wellness
Black Mental Wellness is a website co-founded by a group of Black women psychologists, namely Dr. Nicole Cammack, Dr. Dana Cunningham, Dr. Danielle Busby, and Dr. Jessica Henry. The website offers evidence-based resources portraying Black perspective and culture. This is aimed at changing the norm of black mental health, and it also offers support for black men dealing with anxiety.
- Transparent Black Girl
This feed aims to redefine the norm about Black women’s wellness. It features a mix of hilarious pop culture, art and images of Black people, memes, and Black mental health resources. Its partner organization, Transparent Black Guy, focuses on reducing the stigma and misconception faced by Black men for their vulnerability over their mental health.
- The Nap Ministry
The Nap Ministry reminds people about rest as a form of resistance. It aims at empowering people to give themselves a break to grieve peacefully. This is intended to prevent the harm caused by the fast-paced life to one’s health and well-being.
- National and state action
The topic of mental health isn’t only an individual concern but a national issue. It needs to be addressed with criticality to identify and assist the areas of need related to cognitive health resources, and this is done through a process of transparent data collection.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conduct at the local and national level COVID-19 data gathering through centers of testing, hospitalization, facilities, intensive care unit admissions based on race and ethnicity. Once classified and collected, the data can be accessed at the local and state level.
The National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) and National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) can direct mental health resources such as counseling services to the affected areas. The success of this activity will be realized through collaboration with all the community-based stakeholders.
Also, the state has the funds and infrastructure to facilitate synergistic data collection. This mission will be realized when the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) is funded to collect, house, and report data relevant to the stakeholders. The data collected is then used to identify the areas benefitting from mental health investment.
The state health department also has to be funded to actively run mental health campaign advertisements to create awareness in churches, community centers, and even barbershops. These ads would achieve much if there were a collaboration between the community centers and the state health department as these would aid in the mobilization of community members to lower the stigma around mental health issues.
This mobilization can be seen in Black Prince Georges County, Maryland, where barbers and hairstylists actively advocate and encourage the Black community to go for cancer screening.
- Community-based Solution
For mental health initiatives to be accepted, they have to become a culture deeply rooted in the Black community, and this is built by providing sensitive care with a diversified workforce. This is done with the realization of providing the Black community health insurance for mental health services. This fact can be addressed by teaching the trainees about tools such as the University of Connecticut Racial/Ethnic Stress and Trauma Scale used to deal with racial trauma.
In addition, there could be campaigns aimed at creating racial awareness in the Black community through the mental health workforce. It’s also crucial to remember these efforts are futile if there’s no Black representation as a stakeholder in the mental health department, so they should make up most of the psychiatrists and other representatives. This is because it has been discovered Black patients show better results if they’re treated by healthcare providers and practitioners who look like them as they may have experienced the same mental issues due to racism.
- Support and Treatment
Mental health can also be addressed through support and treatment. Locally, various affiliates across the state have support groups offering warmth, a sense of belonging, and mental health classes.
When it comes to treatment, it’d be best if one was to find a competent provider. When mental health issues start to rise, immediate measures must be taken because one must receive professional care as soon as possible.
Seeking treatment from mental health professionals isn’t the only solution since one can also seek a primary care professional. If need be, a primary care provider can aid in the basic initial assessment and treatment before referring one to a practitioner.
It’s also helpful to gauge the level of cultural awareness of the selected provider, and this can be done in the first meet-up when one can ask them questions. The provider should be open to such questions raised by their patients. It’s also a good opportunity for the providers to gain insights into the patients’ needed treatment.
Some of the questions one can ask the provider include:
- Are you trained on cultural competencies for Black mental health? If not, how are you going to provide culturally sensitive care?
- Have you treated Black patients in the past?
- What approaches do you use in treating patients from different backgrounds?
- Do you understand the different outcomes of Black patient treatment?
Regardless of the care provider’s level of competence, each session should be fulfilling for the patient by feeling respected and heard. It’d help to ask oneself some questions such as:
- Was there effective communication?
- Was I treated respectfully and with dignity?
- Does the provider consider my cultural background, identity, beliefs, and practices while creating my treatment plan?
- Do I feel understood by the provider?
Factors Causing Mental Health Problems In Black Communities
Mental health disorders don’t discriminate as most people worldwide experience a behavioral change at least once in their lifetime. Anyone, regardless of age, gender, or race, can develop a mental illness, but some factors are increasing the vulnerability and severity of mental health issues in Black people. Some of these factors are explained below.
According to a report by Mental Health America, racism has continued to have a significant effect among Blacks despite many efforts to discourage discrimination. Many years of negative historical treatment have resulted in a mistrust of people in government authorities among Blacks. The evidence of historical injustices in people of color can be seen in the pseudoscience of some diseases like dysaesthesia aethiopica and drapetomia back then.
During slavery, people of color experienced many beatings and forced labor, resulting in many cases of mental health disorders. This humiliation made them not talk about their mental health issues because they viewed it as a personal weakness and not an illness.
For many years, Blacks have continued to experience serious violent crimes. This exposure to violence has increased the chances of developing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
While mental health disorders aren’t restricted to individuals of low economic classes, some stressors such as hunger and lack of essentials can cause mental illness. According to Census Bureau statistics of 2014, the poverty rate among Black people stood at 26.2%. Also, the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research has documented mental health disorders, to a large extent, are caused by poverty.
- Religious Beliefs
With more than 85% of Blacks being religious, they believe mental health disorders result from curses or punishment from God, so they use prayers as a weapon against mental illness.
Though spiritual and family beliefs can be an excellent source of mental support, they prevent Blacks from seeking professional mental medication. Religious communities can become a source of stress and depression if they aren’t informed about the disorders and how they can help individuals with mental illness.
Breaking Mental Health Barriers In Black Communities
The stigma associated with mental health among Black people isn’t new as it can be traced back to the time of slavery. People thought slaves couldn’t develop anxiety, depression, or mental health disorders back then. From it, Black people learned to ignore mental illness, which led them to underestimate the effects of mental health conditions. A good case scenario is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who suffered from severe depression and refused to go for psychiatric treatment.
Like Luther King Jr., there are many cases among Black people not seeking mental healthcare because of the stigma. This ignorance has continued to strengthen the belief of a psychiatric disorder as a sign of personal weakness and not a mental health condition.
Over the years, people of black color have continued to develop mental health disorders at an equal rate as other races. They also go through trauma as a result of living in a society full of racism. According to a report by Mental Health America, people of color experience direct traumatic effects as a result of being victims of verbal and physical attacks like being beaten by the police. They also experience indirect stressors as a result of viewing videos of their colleagues being humiliated or killed.
This traumatic stress is passed on from one generation to the other. But despite all these challenges, Black people are still less likely to seek medical care. According to statistics, only 25% of Blacks seek mental care compared to more than 40% of White people. This variation is significantly caused by unequal access to health care between Blacks and Whites.
People can bridge mental health barriers, creating awareness and discouraging the use of stigmatization language. The barrier can also be eliminated by educating people about the mental health challenges within Black people. Finally, the gap can be bridged by changing attitudes towards Black people.
For mental health treatment to be effective, there must be a well-established relationship between the patient and the mental health care provider, and this relationship should be based on communication and trust. The patient should feel heard and respected.
There’s also ample support and help found within different organizations, brands, and podcasts listed above. These are aimed at serving the greater good and eradicating the stigmatization of mental health issues among the Black community.