Mental healing in Black LA begins with professional help that looks like us

Illustration for Black Mental Health Resource List.

Illustration for Black Mental Health Resource List. (Illustration by Kelly Malka, For The Times)

There have always been a variety of barriers to black access to mental health care. After a person has struggled with the stigma surrounding mental illness, he or she is faced with the daunting task of finding a healthcare professional. For Black people, finding a competent healthcare provider who looks like them is a tall order. Blacks make up only 2% of an estimated 41,000 psychiatrists in the United States e 4% of psychologistsaccording to the American Psychiatric and American Psychological Associations, respectively.

In Los Angeles, organizations such as the Black Mental Health Task Force (BMHTF), based in Pasadena, and the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM), based in Culver City, are providing a wide variety of resources and programs aimed at heal the mind, body and spirit of the black community.

Experts point to the low number of Black mental health care providers as an example of structural racism leading to Black hesitancy to seek care until they are in crisis.

According to the American Psychiatric Assn., Black people are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.

Nakeya Fields, a licensed clinical social worker and chair of the Pasadena-based Black Mental Health Task Force.

Nakeya Fields, a licensed clinical social worker and chair of the Pasadena-based Black Mental Health Task Force. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

“You can’t just build it and say, we’re here for you,” said Nakeya Fields, a licensed clinical social worker and president of the Black Mental Health Task Force. “It’s not enough. It has to be integrated into the culture.

Fields has more than 13 years of experience developing and managing community-focused mental health programs. In addition to her work at BMHTF, she is the founder and chair of the board of directors of The Therapeutic Play Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to build a healthier, more resilient world for those living in resource-constrained communities, and is CEO of Innovative Wellness Consulting, providing wellness planning and consultation.

Fields recently partnered with BMHTF to produce a compelling docuseries called “Black Mental Health: Changing the Narrative”. It delves into the issue of mental health stigma within the Black community and highlights the importance of action-based solutions for healing and recovery from chronic and complex intergenerational trauma. Through this project, Fields aims to empower individuals and communities to address mental health challenges.

Fields also embarked on a community survey in collaboration with a group of 10 black mothers. The purpose is to gather information that can inform and improve the delivery of health care services specifically tailored to the needs of Black women and children in Los Angeles County.

It will take a Black person to talk to a Black person about healing, from our Black experience, Fields said. No one but us can do that. We would never trust each other. You have to empower black communities to build a system that people feel they can trust.”

It is widely believed that a holistic approach to healing is needed in the Black community.

BEAM centers its work on a curative justice framework. Her approach to serving the Black community identifies ways to intervene and respond holistically to generational trauma and violence.

The mission: To remove the barriers Black people face when trying to access or stay connected to emotional health care and healing through education, training, advocacy and the creative arts, and BEAM offers a variety of programs.

One is Black Masculinity Reimagined, a community and skills-building program that trains and supports Black men and masculine people in tackling mental health and community violence.

In our hypermasculine society, many black men feel they need to present themselves in an overly masculine way, said Yolo Akili Robinson, founder and executive director of BEAM. The closure and repression of their feelings had a direct connection to the inability of black men to seek help for their mental health. This has caused anxiety, depression, and other serious mental illnesses to escalate within our Black communities.

Redefining mental health care for Black communities is allowing Black people to pursue a full range of humanity, afford to cry when it’s time to cry, to be strong when it’s time to be strong, instead of being this limited and one-dimensional, which is what I think most masculine people feel like they should perform, Robinson said. When you let that go, there is an opportunity for transformation and healing for Black men and not just Black men, but all communities.

Robinson is an award-winning writer, practitioner, healer, and yogi in addition to his work with BEAM. His organization strongly believes that work for the welfare and healing of black people can only progress if this work is done by addressing economic reform, inequalities in the criminal legal system, HIV/AIDS, transphobia, homophobia, racism, misogyny, reproductive justice, intimate partner violence and other issues that challenge the well-being of black communities.

We need to create community-based systems of care that help alleviate harm and trauma for present and future generations,” said Robinson. These community-based systems of care need to integrate into current practices in Black lives and build on traditions and practices. current norms in black community life to be sustainable.

Directory of local and national mental health resources for Black people

Black Mental Health Task Force Seek to identify policies, procedures, resources and partnerships that can effectively inform, engage, educate and collaborate to eliminate the stigma surrounding discussions and access to mental health care for Black individuals.

Black Collective for Emotional and Mental Health Using education, training, advocacy, and the creative arts, this group works to remove the barriers that keep Black people from accessing and maintaining health care and emotional healing.

Black men heal It offers free mental health services specifically for black men.

Black Alliance for Mental Health It connects individuals of color with culturally competent mental health professionals, as well as provides information and resources through its “Find A Therapist” locator.

Black mental well-being From a Black perspective, this organization provides access to evidence-based mental health information and resources, as well as educational opportunities for students and professionals.

Black women’s health imperative She advocates for health equity and social justice for Black women through policy, education, research, leadership development and advocacy.

Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation Offers COVID-19 free virtual therapy support campaign, providing licensed doctors to people facing coronavirus-related stressors and anxiety.

Brother, you are on my mind An initiative by the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and the National Institute on Minority Health Disparities that raises awareness of mental health issues, such as depression and stress, affecting African American men and families. Provides a online toolbox to educate fraternity members and community members on these issues.

Ebonys Mental Health Resources by State Curated list of mental health resources specifically focused on Black individuals, broken down by state.

Melanin and mental health It connects people with culturally competent physicians who are dedicated to meeting the mental health needs of the Black and Latino/Hispanic communities. It offers an online directory, website, and events to promote growth and healing in diverse communities.

Ourselves black Offers information on mental health promotion and developing positive coping mechanisms through a podcast, online magazine, and online discussion groups.

POC online classroom Provides reading and resources on self-care, mental health care, and healing specifically tailored to people of color and within activist movements.

Sista Afia An organization that provides mental wellness education, resource connections, and community support specifically for Black women.

Black girl therapy An online platform dedicated to promoting the mental well-being of Black women and girls. Provides a directory of mental health professionals across the country offering culturally competent services, an informative podcast, and an online support community.

The Department of the Heart A BIPOC community center and event rental space at the intersection of the arts, wellness and social justice. It is in the heart of the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles.

SIWE project A non-profit organization focused on raising mental health awareness in the global Black community.

The Steve Fund It supports the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color.

The Therapeutic Play Foundation A non-profit organization that seeks to transform the world for the better by building resilience and healthier communities one family at a time.

More resources

Stress & Trauma Toolkit for the treatment of African Americans in a changing political and social environment (American Psychiatric Association)

Resource directory from Psych Hub

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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