Even though May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Black women need to know that their mental health matters — every damn day. Erica Richard, chair and medical director of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Sibley Memorial Hospital shares, “Women are at least twice as likely to experience an episode of major depression as men. And, compared to their Caucasian counterparts, African-American women are only half as likely to seek help.” The “strong Black woman” trope can leave many Black women feeling that needing help or places of vulnerability will make them weak.
It is the exact opposite. When you take care of yourself, it better positions you to take care of others. Women, who are often the caretakers in their families, tend to put everyone first, but themselves. This self-sacrificial behavior needs to stop. In addition to getting a good nights sleep, exercise, eating well, and setting healthy boundaries—it’s imperative to take care of our mental health. As a Black woman, you may want to seek professional help from an individual that looks like you; however, that’s not always possible. Women of color make up less than 5 percent of social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists in the industry. To increase your chances of having someone that looks like you, seek help or assistance from organizations that are created specifically to support Black women and our mental health.
Not sure where to start? We’ve done the research for you. Check out 5 organizations that are here to support you and your well-being.
The Loveland Foundation
The Loveland Foundation was birthed in 2018 from a birthday fundraiser on social media created by author Rachel Cargle. With the help of her community, she raised over a quarter of a million dollars to help give Black women and girls access to mental health resources—she has continued this work through The Loveland Foundation. If you cannot afford therapy, you can apply to their Therapy Fund. The fund partners with several organizations to provide up to 12 therapy sessions for a free or reduced price. You can apply for their services here. If for some reason, they aren’t accepting new applications, you will receive an e-mail when the fund reopens.
Therapy For Black Girls
Don’t feel like scrolling through your insurance providers website hoping to come across a Black therapist? Save yourself some time with Therapy For Black Girls. Founded by Joy Harden Bradford, the website is a great resource to find a Black therapist in your area. They even allow you to filter by your insurance provider, or if you prefer virtual therapy. We’ve all faced disappointment when you call an office of a well-recommended therapist or doctor only to discover they aren’t taking new clients—Therapy For Black Girls has a filter to solve this situation. In addition to giving you access to providers in your area, they also have a guide to help you get started with therapy, a podcast, book recommendations, and super cute merch.
Black Mental Health Alliance
Founded in 1983 by Maxie T. Collier, MD, Fikre Workneh, MSW, and Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam (a registered nurse), the Black Mental Health Alliance was formed out of frustration from the life threatening disparities among Black residents in Baltimore City, MD ranging from depression, PTSD, and suicide. The mission of the organization is “to develop, promote and sponsor trusted culturally-relevant educational forums, trainings and referral services that support the health and well-being of Black people and their communities.” The organization connects clinicians to potential patients as well as provides workshops and forums to Black communities and families.
The Okra Project
The Okra Project supports food and mental health crisis of Black trans people by providing home cooked meals and resources to the community. In May 2020, the organization released the Nina Pop and Tony McDade Mental Health Recovery Funds to provide one-time free therapy to Black Trans people. In October of 2020, they added an extension called the Care Lanes Program which is an emergency mutual aid program that gives the Black Trans community free access to appointments with Black therapists. The organization supports the Black Trans community in additional ways including, The Okra Purse Project which amplifies fundraisers for Black Trans people as well as The Direct Chef Services, which hires Black Trans ches to prepare nutritious and culturally speaking meals for The Okra Project that are delivered to Black Trans community members in need. The Okra Project is founded by Ianne Fields Stewart (she, her, they, them) who said, “For Black people, in particular, the kitchen is such a place of family lineage. It’s a place of community. It’s a place of love. Daily life occurs in the kitchen. And so to have that kitchen be filled with someone who looks, loves, and lives like you, is a luxury and a joy.” Stewart recently announced she’ll be stepping down as the Executive Director to return to her full-time work as a performing artist and storyteller working at the intersection of theatre and activism. There is currently a nationwide search for her replacement—if you think you are the person to run the organization, reach out and apply!
Black Girls Smile, Inc.
We have to look out for the mental health and well being of our young Black girls. We are in a mental health crisis. In 2018, for the first time in history, the suicide rate of Black children between the ages of 5 and 12 exceeded that of white children. An additionally sobering statistic is that more than a third of elementary school aged suicides are committed by Black children. Black Girls Smile, Inc. was founded by Lauren Carson to promote positive mental health for young Black women. Via her website, Carson shares, “At the age of 15, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and I knew the only way for me to live a full and meaningful life was to focus on my mental wellbeing. However, on my journey to mental healthiness, I found an immense lack of racially sensitive resources and understanding and awareness within the African American community toward mental health and mental illness and specifically geared toward young Black girls.” Carson has made it her life’s work to support young Black women and ensure they do not have the same experience she did. Her organization provides three, six, and nine months of active programs and workshops including SHE’s Mentally Prepared as well as Black Girls Are Magic. Black Girls Smile, Inc. also has a Therapy Scholarship Fund as well as resources that help support young Black girls.