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Mental Health in Black Communities


You may remember Reds Groomed Man supported the Black Brain Campaign in 2019, donating a portion of each sale to this important organization. The Black Brain Campaign’s mission is to help eliminate the stigma of mental health help within the Black community. They are advocates for mental health as well as providing resources. This group was founded by two women, Farida E. Boyer, LMFT and Jaynay C. Johnson, MFT.


The need for the Black Brain Campaign hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, 2020 has highlighted just how important mental health help is in Black communities. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black families and communities. COVID-19 struck as our country continued to deal with the murder of Black people by police and the anti-racism protests grew. A worldwide pandemic is stressful. The murder of people that look like is scary. Protests cause unrest and anxiety. They are all happening concomitantly


Enter Saleemah McNeil. She is a psychotherapist, a trained birth/postpartum doula, a certified lactation consultant and a marriage and family therapist (MFT). She is also the founder of the Oshun Family Center in Jenkintown, PA.


Seeing the pain her community was going through moved her to start a fundraising campaign to help provide free counseling sessions to Black people dealing with racial trauma. Setting a goal of $5,000 and teaming up with Valerie Braunstein of Philly Psychology, Saleemah raised $7,000 in one day, totaling $81,000.


Through this fundraising effort, she has been able to offer over 100 people 8 60 minute FREE counseling sessions. And after those 8 free sessions, those you want to continue can receive discounted sessions on a sliding scale. She hopes to raise $100,000 in order to keep these services going.


Additionally, McNeil has been able to onboard several culturally competent therapists. McNeil acknowledges how important racially-concordant care is for people of color.


What is Racial Trauma


Racial trauma can be caused by one incident of racism or many incidents of racism or exposure to constant racism. Incidents can happen in the workplace or they can be a hate crime or they can be microaggressions. In just the last year, researchers are now looking into the possibility of racial trauma stemming from media outlets.


Currently, racial trauma is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, but several researchers are arguing for the addition because it has the same symptoms as post-traumatic stress disorder.


Why is Having a Black Therapist Important


Finding a Black therapist is important for many Black people, and unfortunately, there is a shortage. There is a historic and current mistrust of the medical system on the part of Black people. It has been weaponized against them in the not too distant past and currently, Black people are far too frequently misdiagnosed by their health care providers.


When in white dominated spaces, some Black people may feel burdened with the task of not perpetuating negative stereotypes. This is a heavy burden in a regular setting, but to add that burden in a mental health setting, one that is supposed to be safe, can be counterproductive.


There is also a lot about being Black that white therapists cannot understand. It becomes the job of the patient to school the therapist taking away from outcomes especially when some experiences cannot be explained or articulated, but just felt.


And then, of course, there is the fact that white people, even the anti-racist ones, still have preconceived notions about Black people, their relationships, their upbringing, the desires and so on.


All of this makes therapy, something that is difficult for most people, even more difficult for Black people.


Here are some other resources for people of color seeking a therapist in the Philadelphia area.


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