Mental Health In The Black Community

Mental Health In The Black Community

As North Americans continue to fight for racial equality following the murder of George Floyd, various shocking statistics have come to light about disparities regarding access to resources for the Black community. Chief among those are the statistics that strongly support claims of severe disparities in terms of quality and access to mental health care for the Black community in both Canada and the United States. 

Factoring in the trauma of the pandemic and the ensuing hardship of self-isolation creates a profound need for mental health services for everyone. However, because of the research previously mentioned, Black communities are struggling with less access on top of fewer financial resources for support. 

Some public figures are using their platforms to speak out about the importance of mental health, while others are helping to create mental health resources for these communities. Taraji P. Henson is an example who has decided to step in to help make a difference

She has launched free online therapy services through her non-profit organization, the Boris L. Henson Foundation which she founded in 2018 for her father, a Vietnam veteran who struggled with mental illness. The focus will be to offset the cost for mental health services which have proven to be a prominent barrier for some, especially those in marginalized communities. 

This foundation’s focus is to offset the costs of mental health services which can be a barrier for some; covering the cost of five sessions of therapy for “individuals with life-changing stressors and anxiety related to the coronavirus.”

“Having to choose between a meal and mental health is not something that one should ever have to ponder,” Henson said of her motivation behind this project. She continued by talking about the pressures placed on Black people to simply rise above their problems while minimizing their impact, pointing out that it’s “an idea that’s passed down for generations.” 

“Pray your problems away,” she continued, “you have to be strong, you can’t be vulnerable because that’s a sign of weakness. If we shift that thinking and normalize this stigma, I think that will help. It’s okay to be vulnerable, it is okay for us to be vulnerable.”

According to Henson, the response has been overwhelming with hundreds of new therapists signing up to participate in the program, adding that the site even crashed as a result of the response. This proves two things unequivocally — that there is a demand for these programs as well as an unprecedented need. 

A long history of systemic oppression and abuse within health institutions has led to both stigma around mental illness as well as fear of treatment. According to this article from the Washington Post, over the past two centuries, “medical and legal professionals have often mislabeled behavior such as escaping slavery and advocating for civil rights as a byproduct of psychiatric madness. Even worse, instead of treating this purported madness, they simply locked patients in facilities with deplorable conditions.” 

Access to mental health care can be restrictive under the best of circumstances. But when we factor in the strain the pandemic has put on resources on top of systemic barriers to care, it becomes clear that something must be done. This will help countless members of marginalized communities get access to the help they both need and deserve while also aiding in destigmatizing mental illness in the Black community. 

*This is not an endorsement by Share Lawyers regarding organizations or people mentioned. Share Lawyers does not endorse, promote, or have any affiliation with this initiative.

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