The Need for Mental Health Services in Black Communities


People across the United States face many concerns, including inflation, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the recent mass shooting at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo highlights the threat people of color face every day.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the experience of being Black in the United States varies, but there are several shared cultural experiences like racism, discrimination, and inequality.

Let’s break that down into a few numbers.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, about a third of black adults said they worry almost every day about being threatened or attacked because of their race or ethnicity. In the same survey, about three in 10 black adults said they had changed their daily schedule or routine in the past year because of these fears.

Now, these stressors can often lead to a number of mental health issues, but the likelihood of a person of color seeking help is far less compared to a white counterpart.

Some specialists share the barriers that prevent members of the African-American community from receiving the care they need.

When she was growing up, Chandra Redfern met people in her family and in the African-American community struggling with mental health issues.

“I just knew there was something wrong and there had to be a way to make a difference,” said Chandra Redfern, CEO of the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers. “So I went into a helping profession.”

Redfern served as a counselor for about three years and joined the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, a community agency that serves low-income and disadvantaged populations and connects and refers people to physical and mental health services. She says there is a lack of participation among African Americans in the mental health sector. She says one of the causes of this lack of participation is the stigma against mental health and mental health services in the African American community.

“I think there’s a lot of ‘don’t put your business on the street,'” Redfern said. “So what happens at home stays at home. We don’t bring strangers into what’s happening with us.

Rana Ryan is a licensed clinical psychotherapist. She agrees, saying a common stigma in the African American community is that there is something wrong with the person who needs help with their mental health. She says other barriers include access to technology and transportation to and from appointments.

“I find that families who have more resources and access to vehicles compared to the African American families I’ve worked with may be sharing a car and maybe that car isn’t in good shape. , and the car may be used to commute to work,” Ryan says. “[People have] priorities, you know.

Redfern says some people in the African-American community may be uninsured or unaware of what their insurance covers. Co-payments can also be difficult for some to pay.

“When we’re talking about someone who may be low-wage or middle-class earner, and you have a $25 copayment to go see a therapist,” Redfern said. “I mean, people don’t pay $25 co-pay to go see their doctor. So, you know, sometimes people have to make choices and they would choose not to spend that money on a copayment.

Redfern and Ryan say it’s also important to have suppliers who know and accept the differences in culture. It’s something Ryan says she didn’t experience during her therapy when she was younger.

“I think I did two sessions,” Ryan said. “I don’t have a cultural connection. The person did not understand me. I came out of there feeling overwhelmed and more lost. I had a bachelor’s degree in psychology and I knew I wanted to do more to help people not go through what I went through.

Redfern says she sees a lot of good things happening in terms of diversity in the field of mental health, but there’s still a long way to go.

“It’s not a good thing when people say, ‘I can’t find African-American suppliers,'” Redfern said. “Because we know they are there. Sometimes we have to search a little harder to find them, but it shouldn’t be that hard. »

She says people should be able to find providers they feel comfortable receiving services from.


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