Advertisement
Behold

Mental healing in Black L.A. starts with professional help that looks like us

Illustration for Black mental health resources listing.
Illustration for Black mental health resources listing.
(Illustration by Kelly Malka, For The Times)
Share

There have always been a number of barriers to Black people accessing mental healthcare. After a person wrestles with the stigma surrounding mental illness, they then face the daunting task of locating a healthcare provider. For Black people, finding a competent healthcare provider who looks like them is an arduous task. Black people make up only 2% of the estimated 41,000 psychiatrists in the U.S and 4% of the psychologists, according to the American Psychiatric and American Psychological associations, respectively.

In Los Angeles, organizations like 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 wealth of resources and programming aimed at healing the mind, body and spirit of the Black community.

Experts point to the low number of Black mental healthcare providers as an example of structural racism that leads to Black people‘s hesitance to seek care until they are in crisis.

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

Advertisement
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 chair of the Black Mental Health Task Force. “That’s not enough. It has to be integrated within the culture.”

Fields has more than 13 years’ experience in developing and running mental health related, community focused programming. In addition to her work at BMHTF, she is founder and chair of the board for the Therapeutic Play Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to build a healthier, more resilient world for those in underresourced communities, and she is CEO of Innovative Wellness Consulting, providing wellness programming and consultation.

Fields recently collaborated 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 has also undertaken a community survey in collaboration with a group of 10 Black mothers. The purpose is to gather insights that can inform and enhance the delivery of health services specifically tailored to the needs of Black women and children in Los Angeles County.

“It’s going to take a Black person to talk to a Black person about healing, from our Black experience,” Fields said. “Nobody outside of us can do that. We would never trust it. You have to give Black communities the ability to build a system that people see they can trust.”

Advertisement

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

BEAM centers its work around a healing justice framework. Its approach to serving the Black community identifies ways to intervene and holistically respond to generational trauma and violence.

The mission: to remove the barriers that Black people experience when trying to get access to or staying connected with emotional healthcare 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 folks with addressing mental health and community violence.

In our hyper masculine society, many Black men feel they have to present in an overly masculine way, said Yolo Akili Robinson, BEAM’s founder and executive director. Shutting down and repressing their feelings have had a direct connection to Black men’s inability to seek help for their mental health. This has caused anxiety, depression and other serious mental illnesses to magnify within our Black communities.

Yolo Akili Robinson
(Sean Howard)

“Redefining mental healthcare for Black communities is allowing Black people to pursue a full range of humanity, allow themselves to cry when it’s time to cry, to be strong when it’s time to be strong, as opposed to being this limited, one-dimensional caricature, which is what I think most masculine folks feel like they have to perform as,” Robinson said. “When you let that go, there’s an opportunity for transformation and healing for Black men and not just Black men, but all communities.”

Advertisement

Robinson is an award-winning writer, healing justice worker and yogi in addition with his work with BEAM. His organization firmly believes that Black wellness and healing work can progress only if this work is done while addressing economic reform, inequities in the criminal legal system, HIV/AIDS, transphobia, homophobia, racism, misogyny, reproductive justice, intimate partner violence and other issues that challenge the wellness of Black communities.

“We must create community-based systems of care that help alleviate the harm and trauma for present and future generations,” Robinson said. “These community-based systems of care must integrate into current practices in Black life and build upon current traditions and norms in Black communities in order to be sustainable.”

List of local and national mental health resources for Black people

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

Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective Using education, training, advocacy and creative arts, this group works toward removing barriers that prevent Black people from accessing and maintaining emotional healthcare and healing.

Black Men Heal Offers free mental health services specifically for Black men.

Advertisement

Black Mental Health Alliance Connects Black individuals with culturally competent mental health professionals, as well as provides information and resources through its “Find a Therapist” locator.

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

Black Women’s Health Imperative Advocates for health equity and social justice for Black women through policy, education, research, leadership development and advocacy.

Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation Offers the COVID-19 Free Virtual Therapy Support Campaign, providing licensed clinicians to individuals facing stressors and anxiety related to the coronavirus.

Brother You’re on My Mind An initiative by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and the National Institute on Minority Health Disparities that raises awareness about mental health challenges, such as depression and stress, affecting African American men and families. Provides an online toolkit for educating fraternity members and community members on these issues.

Ebony’s Mental Health Resources by State Curated list of mental health resources specifically focused on Black individuals, categorized by state.

Advertisement

Melanin and Mental Health Connects individuals with culturally competent clinicians who are dedicated to serving the mental health needs of Black and Latinx/Hispanic communities. Offers an online directory, website and events to promote growth and healing in diverse communities.

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

POC Online Classroom Provides readings and resources on self-care, mental healthcare and healing specifically tailored to people of color and within activist movements.

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

Therapy for Black Girls An online platform dedicated to promoting the mental wellness of Black women and girls. Provides a directory of mental health professionals across the country who offer culturally competent services, an informative podcast and an online support community.

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

Advertisement

The SIWE Project A nonprofit organization focused on raising awareness about mental health in the global Black community.

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

The Therapeutic Play Foundation A nonprofit organization seeking to transform the world for the better by building resiliency and healthier communities one family at a time.

More resources

Stress & Trauma Toolkit for Treating African Americans in a Changing Political and Social Environment (American Psychiatric Assn.)

Directory of resources from Psych Hub

Advertisement