Empowering the Black Community
All communities experience mental health issues, yet the Black community silently experiences an increased rate of mental health conditions due to lack of resources, support, and an increased level of stigma within the community.
According to Mass General Brigham McLean, 25% of Black people seek mental health treatment when needed compared to 40% of white people, and the care they receive is often compromised. They are also significantly less likely to be included in mental health research and less likely to have access to mental health services. It is more important now than ever to shed light on the mental health crisis within many minority groups and identify how we can empower the black community during this time.
How can we empower Black Americans during this mental health crisis?
1. Increase Resources and Education
Lack of knowledge within the health space causes many to not know what to demand and ask for when advocating for themselves in order to receive effective treatment. Therefore, the black community needs to be empowered to make well-informed mental health decisions, advocate for themselves, and take control of their mental health and future.
I interviewed Tiffany Whitlow, the co-founder of Acclinate and it’s brand NOWINCLUDED, which is a groundbreaking platform that aims at connecting individuals with education, support, and resources to navigate the complexities of mental health. Whitlow shares that “the black community hasn’t had equal access to the resources we need in regarding mental health.”
Education is one of the main ways the NOWINCLUDED brand is helping to turn this issue around. As a black-owned company, they have found that by offering services like cultural competency training they can help reduce biases and improve the quality of care provided. Tiffany shares that this training allows health care providers and clinical research study teams to understand the lived experiences and unique needs of the people in the black communities they are serving. Through the NOWINCLUDED brand, the main focus is on educating and engaging black people about clinical research and the need for people of color to participate in clinical research, to ensure that resources such as medications are being developed and effective for us.
2. Encourage and Validate the Emotions of Every Black American
There is still the deeply rooted idea within our black community and in many minority groups that any signs of anxiety, depression, pain, or sadness is a sign of weakness. This mindset has been drilled into the minds of a majority of the black community for centuries. How many times have you opened up to a family member or friend and been told to:
“ Just relax”
“You’ll get over it”
“Men do not cry”
“You are just seeking attention.”
All of these phrases are what make many people feel ashamed to ask for help when needed. Tiffany shares about starting early in normalizing the struggle with handling stress and depression for her two boys: “My husband and I talk to our boys about ways to open up and express themselves… We work hard not to judge them, they are sharing stories, asking questions, and being transparent with the things they encounter on a day-to-day basis.”
Creating a safe space to be able to feel and express emotions with no judgment starts from home. In order for the black community to experience change; parents, friends, relatives, teachers, grandparents, etc. need to end the stigma from within their home.
Suffering in silence has been mistaken as a form of resilience within the black community. A lot of this harmful ideology dates back to slavery. When discussing Black Americans and mental health, it is better understood through a historical and cultural lens. When you think back to the times of slavery it is easy to make the conclusion that “the black community has shown resilience in the face of adversity for centuries, dating back to the 1600s.” Therefore the stigma surrounding mental health conditions and expressing emotions within the black community has been passed down from generation to generation.
When asked what are ways we can start to combat this stigma surrounding the mental health of BIPOC communities, Whitlow answered “It all comes back to education and starts with transparency. NOWINCLUDED brings together people, education, and resources — three things we need to improve mental health stigma and outcomes.”
Getty image by FG Trade