BIPOC Mental Health

BIPOC Mental Health

Ayisha Mahama, Dell Medical School, Class of 2023

Race and Mental Health

July is BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Mental Health Month. Systemic racism exists in mental health care, and Ayisha explains why that is important.

Written by Ayisha Mahama, Dell Medical School, Class of 2023

Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.

These three names have been all over the news over the past few months. We’ve been having more conversations as a country around police brutality, systemic racism, and how these concepts affect Black people specifically. These topics + COVID disproportionately affecting Black (and Latinx) populations has caused major strife in our community.

As we start and continue to have conversations about how systemic racism impacts Black people, it’s important we include mental health in that conversation. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black Americans are 10% more likely to experience serious psychological distress. To add to this, many Black Americans do not have access to healthcare, yet alone mental healthcare, and this contributes to worse mental health outcomes.

There is a severe shortage of psychiatrists in our country, and an even higher demand for psychiatrists of color, specifically Black psychiatrists. The lack of Black mental health professionals also plays a role in why Black people have poor mental health outcomes. One of the biggest issues we talk about in medicine is the implicit (and explicit) bias in many healthcare providers and how that causes racial disparities in all aspects of health care, including mental health.

As a Black female medical student, the racial disparities in medicine is one of the many reasons I decided I wanted to become a doctor. Racial disparities in medicine + my marked interest in mental health/stigma surrounding made me realize I was interested in becoming a psychiatrist. Studies have shown that POC patients have better clinical outcomes when they see POC doctors and that includes psychiatry. From personal experience, I know having a mental health professional who looks like you makes it substantially easier to share information about yourself. You don’t have to worry as much about being stereotyped or if they are really listening to you. There are certain things you don’t have to explain because the professional just gets it. It’s freeing. I want to advocate for my patients’ mental health and well-being and I really just want to be in the community and give as much help, support, and whatever else is needed to the people who need it the most.

Before I, hopefully, become a psychiatrist, I can use my knowledge of great organizations around the country that are focused on Black mental health support and share that with others! Here are a few resources:

  1. Therapy for Black Girls
  2. Therapy for Black Girls is a website that provides mental health and resources for Black women and girls. There is a podcast, a membership-based support community, and a directory of culturally competent mental health professionals.
  3. The Safe Place App
  4. This app is designed to reach Black users with information about mental health and self-care tips and resources. It is free and available on Google Play and the App Store.
  5. Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
  6. Founded by actress Taraji P. Henson in 2018, this nonprofit organization is committed to changing the perception of mental illness in the African-American community by encouraging those who suffer from a mental illness to get the help they need. Currently, they have their Free Virtual Therapy Support Campaign where they will provide financial support for up to 5 individual therapy sessions.
  7. National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network
  8. This organization was founded in 2017. Their website has a link to their Mental Health Fund for QTPOC (queer/trans POC) who apply for financial support for up to 6 therapy sessions. The website also has a directory of therapists around the country who provide mental health care for QTPOC!
  9. Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective
  10. This organization’s mission is to remove the barriers that Black people experience getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing. The collective is made up of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, and many others. Their website has information on trainings, events, wellness resources, emotional regulation and coping skills, and information on how to find a culturally competent therapist.
  11. On the Mend
  12. Created by Deanna Richards, LMHC and Kenya Crawford, LMHC, On the Mend Healing is a website seeking to make therapy more accessible through short healing courses. Some of the courses include Understanding Stress, Mindfulness of the Go, and Emotional Regulation. The courses are priced on a sliding scale, dependent on one’s income!
  13. The Loveland Foundation
  14. Established in 2018 by Rachel Cargle, this foundation provides financial support to Black women and girls who are seeking therapy and mental health support. Their goal is to provide support for 4-8 therapy sessions for around 1,000 women.

July is BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Mental Health Month and it is more relevant than ever. We need to diversify the mental health field, make sure mental health professionals learn about cultural competency throughout their careers (it’s a lifelong process!), educate lower income and minority communities about the signs of mental health conditions and really emphasize that it is okay to ask for help. This post is just a small primer on how systemic racism impacts Black mental health care, but there are other topics to dig deeper into about Black mental health regarding incarceration, faith and spirituality, shame/weakness, Black masculinity, LGBTQ+, and so much more. I hope you continue to be curious and learn and discuss these topics with friends, family, and peers. BIPOC deserve to have culturally competent mental health care that can genuinely change their lives for the better and I hope changes happen sooner rather than later.