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July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month

By: April Green/Senior Editor

Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color (BIPOC ) populations can face giant differences in the accessibility of quality mental health care. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported that racial and ethnic minority businesses within the U.S. Are more likely to be uninsured, more likely to seek emergency departments services, much less possibly to gain access to mental wellness services, less probable to use network mental health support, and much more likely to acquire decreased quality care.

July marks BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month which shines a light on the awesome struggles that underrepresented populations face with mental health needs in the United States. Many are embarrassed to seek helo for a fear of being shamed.BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month provides an opportunity to destigmatize speaking about mental health needs, and substance abuse problems. By focusing on this issue in July and all year round we can help close the gap of inequality of services in marginalized communities and fight stereotypes that keep those in the BIPOC community from receiving services.

To highlight some of the unique subject matters of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, including the stigma of mental illness, access to treatment, and resources read below:

  1. Mental Health Stigma
    Minority groups automatically have limitations to getting help if they are trying to find treatment. When it comes to supporting marginalized communities’ ability to navigate life with a mental health condition, a number one reason for the roadblocks is different forms of cultural/social stigma.

For instance, in some BIPOC communities, one stigma is that seeking mental health support means you’re “crazy” or “weak.” Also, a loss of access to culturally capable mental health experts who can meet BIPOC clients’ needs often prevents those suffering from seeking care.

  1. Access to Treatment
    BIPOC communities experience racism or discrimination in therapeutic settings and language barriers among providers due to a loss of cultural competence amongst organizations that provide care. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) stresses the significance of obtaining a culturally aware provider.

When seeking support, you can ask potential mental health health care providers about their schooling and background to get a higher sense of whether or not or not you want to work with them. You may want to ask the following.

Have you had any cultural competence schooling?

Are you inclined to consist of my values and cultural beliefs into my care?

Do you have experience treating persons from my cultural background?

  1. Available Resources
    Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender, or identity. However, way of life, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation can make getting mental health treatment lots tougher. The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is an excellent place to start to study more about mental wellness and ways to support and bring awareness to your community.

April Green


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Black trans communities suffer a greater mental-health burden from discrimination and violence

By Bethany Ayo-

The Philadelphia Inquirer –

When Keisha Lewis comes into contact with a police officer, one of the first emotions she feels is fear. Lewis, a 35-year-old Black transgender woman and office manager at the Morris Home, a residential recovery program for the transgender community in Southwest Philadelphia, can’t be sure of the reception she will get.

“It’s like, ‘Is this person going to be mean to me?’” Lewis said. “It plays on your psyche and messes with you very badly. I’m a human, too, and I deserve protection, and I deserve to be taken care of like everyone else.”

After the June murder of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a Black transgender woman in Philadelphia, the outcry to address violence against transgender people is louder than ever. The problem is not unique to Philadelphia. In 2019, at least 26 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed in the U.S. — 91% of them Black women — according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Black transgender people often already are at higher risk for mental-health issues. Their problems are only made worse by the violence that they experience, a lack of acceptance within their families and communities, and a shortage of mental-health care specific to their needs.

Lewis, who has experienced the pain of rejection and the fear of gendered violence, said she struggles with mental health issues because of it.

“The proximity to trauma for Black trans women is very real,” said Shana Williams, clinical director at the Attic Youth Center, which serves LGBTQ youth in the Philadelphia area. Williams is also a therapist with the Morris Home and identifies as a Black queer woman. “The average lifespan of a Black trans woman is 35 years old, and if you constantly see that around you, you cannot help but to mentally accept and be prepared for death as a Black trans woman navigating society.”

‘A lot of us are ostracized’

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) found that 81.7% of the 27,715 respondents had seriously considered suicide; 40.4% had actually attempted it.

For Black transgender people, the mental health impact is likely even worse — a 2013 study found that experiencing transphobic and racist events increased depressive symptoms for transgender women of color.

But “the idea that being transgender is the mental-health problem” is incorrect, Williams said. The trouble is with “the world functioning as a gatekeeper,” rejecting anyone who doesn’t meet certain norms.

“It’s really about society and family rejection,” Williams said. “Being a Black person who already has to navigate oppressive systems, with the added layer of being trans, leads to another way to be discarded, shunned, and not supported.”

Lewis said that many people in her community have abandonment issues that stem from the rejection they experienced after coming out to their families.

“A lot of us are ostracized by our community, our family, the people who are supposed to love you, when we come out,” she said. “But it’s like they throw you away and discard you like trash. When you’re young, you don’t know what you’re supposed to do then. You’re lacking love, and no one has provided you with any type of tools to move forward with, and over time, that begins messing with your mind.”

Lewis said suicidal thoughts may begin taking hold when it feels as if people have lost their family’s love through no fault of their own.

“They think that they don’t want to be here if they can’t have their family,” she said. “This is just who they are, and the people who are supposed to love them unconditionally don’t want them around.”

Needed: More Black LGBTQ therapists

Okichie Davis, a Philadelphia therapist who works with queer people of color through their private practice, Endeavoring Wellness, has found that Black transgender people experience all of the same mental-health challenges that the general population faces. But “the difference is that [Black LGBTQ+ folks] are marginalized for our gender identity and sexuality, which makes it difficult for us to manage those challenges,” said Davis, who identifies as a queer Black woman.

Transgender people deal with higher levels of housing and food insecurity, violence, difficulties accessing affordable, affirming health care, Davis noted. “All of these barriers serve to exacerbate any symptoms that already exist, and compounds the severity of the mental-health challenges that folks deal with. When people are making the choice between paying for food, medicine, or keeping the lights on, therapy gets bumped,” Davis said.

That’s why it’s so important to have more therapists from the Black LGBTQ community who understand those challenges, Davis said. Many of Davis’ clients search for months before making an appointment.

“When you work with clinician not from your racial background or sexual identity, sometimes you encounter racism, transphobia, homophobia, or the pathologizing of Black and LGBTQ people,” Davis said. “That drives people away.”

Williams also stressed the importance of exploring implicit biases around gender and identity as clinicians. She said she still hears about clinicians who insist on using their clients’ legal names instead of their preferred names and fail to ask which pronouns they use.

“Any clinician in 2020 has to do the work to educate themselves on how to be open and affirming,” she said. “Being trans is who someone is, and we should feel able to support that.”

Lewis knows Black transgender people who will not see a therapist because “there’s nobody that looks like [them].” She said they are afraid of being judged by someone who can’t relate to them.

“I remember years ago when I wanted to see a therapist, I couldn’t find an African American or a trans therapist,” Lewis said. “I just want to tell all the Black professionals out there who are becoming therapists — we need you, keep doing what you’re doing, we want to see more of your faces out here, doing the work.”

April Green


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For Mothers Of Black Children With Disabilities, Living With Twice The Fear

By Allison Norlian -Forbes Women

Kim Kaiser’s son was 10 years old when she first spoke with him about the challenges he’d face as a black man with disabilities. 

It’s a conversation they’ve continued every day since, and it covers a little bit of everything. How should he act in public? Where should he put his hands? How should he respond if police stop him? What type of people should he avoid?

In the days following George Floyd’s death, Kaiser was careful to speak with her son about that, too. Her son, now 14, had questions of his own.

“He said to me, ‘Mommy, are you going to be here to save me when the police put a knee on my neck? Because George Floyd called for his mommy. What would happen if I called for my mommy?’” Kaiser said.

For many mothers of black children across the country, it’s an all-too-familiar refrain: raising black kids means raising them in the specter of fear.

“Now add in a disability,” said Kaiser, who’s been an advocate for people with disabilities and disenfranchised communities for nearly four decades.

“We are twice as fearful raising our children in this country.”  

It’s a fear Maria Davis-Pierre knows well. Following her 8-year-old daughter’s autism diagnosis, she createdAutism in Blacka companythat supports black parents through education and advocacy services while bringing awareness to autism spectrum disorder.

“Our children having interactions with the police is a constant worry for us,” said Davis-Pierre, who lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. 

“Because they are black and autistic, they automatically have certain characteristics that could look suspicious to first responders.”

Detroit resident Camille Proctor, a mother of a 14-year-old son with autism and founder of The Color of Autism Foundation, agrees. 

“When an African American person is disabled and can’t process a police command – with any luck – he’ll end up in handcuffs, but most of the time, it’s fatal,” Proctor said.

“Police need training. But they need to stop killing black people before the training about people with disabilities will be effective.”

According to Mapping Police Violence, a research collaborative collecting comprehensive data on police killings nationwide, black Americans are killed at disproportionate rates by police than their white counterparts. Black Americans are more likely to be subjected to force by police, and according to 2019 data in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, black men are nearly three times more likely than white men to be killed during a police intervention. 

Since George Floyd’s death, there have been calls around the country to reform or dismantle police departments, and move the money to support and serve communities through other means.

Already changes are being made.

The Minneapolis City Council pledged on Sunday to dismantle their city’s police department, promising to create a new public safety system in the city. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said NYPD would face budget cuts with the intention of funneling the money to youth and social services. In the wake of protesting, Richmond, Virginia, Mayor Levar Stoney said the city is committing to a citizen review board, and something called the Marcus Alert.

A group called the Richmond Transparency, and Accountability Project has been advocating for the citizen review board and the Marcus Alertsince the 2018 death of a science teacher named Marcus David-Peters, who was killed after lunging, unarmed, at a police officer while experiencing a mental health crisis. 

Chelsea Higgs Wise, an organizer for RTAP, said the Marcus Alertwould provide those suffering a mental health crisis with wellness checks, rather than enforcement. 

“If someone is having a mental health crisis, crisis stabilization would be called, and they would have authority over the scene instead of police – as long as there is no lethal safety issue,” Higgs Wise said.

Proctor, Davis-Pierre, and Kaiser all think something like a Marcus Alertshould be implemented across the country, not only for people with mental illness but also for people with disabilities.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 plus years, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been lunged at by a person with disabilities,” Kaiser said.

“You go through a lot of emotions in your head, but if you’re receiving ongoing training, you should know how to restrain someone without force.” 

Kaiser, Davis-Pierre, and Proctor all believe there needs to be a variety of changes made at both state and federal levels, specifically when it comes to policing. They advocate for civilian review boards made up of people that diversely represent the community who can hold officers accountable, including people from the disability community. They believe police should partner and work consistently with mental health professionals and disability experts and advocates to learn best practices and experience more in-depth training more frequently. They advocate for bias training too.

“Police need to understand if someone says something you don’t like, that doesn’t mean you put a knee on their neck and kill them,” Kaiser said.

“Police must be trained on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of disability and mental illness.” 

Davis-Pierre said police must receive culturally responsive training or consistent, in-depth training that teaches officers how to interact with the black and disabled communities. She also encourages officers to hold their colleagues responsible for racist and prejudiced behavior and believes police need anti-racist training.

“Until then, we will be preparing our children as much as we can,” Davis-Pierre said. 

Pierre-Davis gives her daughter a card/bracelet explaining she has autism in hopes that if police ever stop her, it’ll help the situation.

“But my concern as a black parent is that it won’t even get to that point because of her skin,” she said. 

Proctor insists her son stay close to her when they’re in public. Kaiser advises her son to keep his hands outside of his pockets. She also tells him not to carry anything that could be perceived as a weapon, and if approached by police to put his hands up. She tells her son to immediately inform a police officer who is questioning him that he’s on the autism spectrum. 

“My son doesn’t know how to make consistent eye contact, but I tell him to the extent that he can, he needs to try,” Kaiser said. 

These moms say they will never be entirely comfortable until racism is abolished, laws are changed, and systemic and cultural improvements are made. Still, they will continue doing the tireless work to improve their children’s lives and for black Americans with or without disabilities that come after them.

April Green’


Email: woogreen78@gmail.com

IG: 4aprilgreen

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