As we honor Black History Always, we want to acknowledge the stigma and barriers with mental health in the Black community and how to get help.
History of Racism
To do that, we must recognize that “there is a history of racism within the mental health field,” said Jasmine Lamitte, Director of Mental Health and Support Services at KIPP SoCal Public Schools. “Going back to the 1840s, psychiatry was weaponized against Black people. … In the 1960s, we see the continued use of psychology to explain civil rights protest, with doctors claiming that uprisings, or 'riots' as they called them, were due to 'brain dysfunction' amongst Black people, suggesting electrodes as 'treatment,'" she explained.
“We are all dealing with the stress and trauma of a global pandemic ... but the Black community has been disproportionately affected by COVID in infection rates, hospitalizations, and death (Oppel et al 2020). Not to mention the increased public outcries over racism and police brutality, which are not new to the community, however, the media attention and re-traumatization of seeing folks that look like us murdered with no justice, takes a significant toll on our mental health,” stressed Lamitte.
Watch our February 2022 Wellness Wednesday bilingual community information session, you’ll learn more about common myths on Black mental health, mental health diagnoses and challenges within Black communities, and the resources available to get help.
KIPP SoCal’s Mental Health and Support Services Department
For those reasons and more, “it is very important to me that our Mental Health Department is culturally competent and understands the unique experiences of being Black in our country,” added Lamitte.
- Our team has received training from the Black Emotional And Mental Health organization to ensure they have updated cultural context and best practices in working with our Black students and families.
- All of our interventions for counseling are research backed to support and make progress with Black youth.
- Our school psychologists understand the overrepresentation and identification of Black youth, especially Black boys, as needing special education services, look critically at referrals, and use approved testing measures to ensure our Black students are not disproportionately labeled.
Why Black Mental Health Matters
Did you know that "Black adults are 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population, but only 1 in 3 actually receive help?" The reasons for this drop off include misdiagnosis by doctors, socioeconomic factors and a lack of Black mental health professionals,” shared Lamitte. "Overall, Black people are less likely to die by suicide, but Black teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than their white counterparts (9.8% vs 6.1%)."
Barriers to Accessing Mental Health
However, there are main obstacles that prevent access to mental health. Check out some of those listed below by our Director of Mental Health and Support Services:
Distrust of Health Care System. "From the historical context I shared before, it is understandable that Black people don’t trust the health care system."
Stigma. "There is a stigma in our community with getting therapy," stated Lamitte. "The idea that we don’t share our business outside of our family, that Black people are strong and resilient and don’t need therapy, that you’re “crazy” or weak if you have to talk to a therapist… All of these reasons have historical context and things have definitely gotten better with more and more well-known Black athletes, musicians, actors, leaders sharing their own struggles with mental health and how getting support can help. We can all work towards breaking the stigma!"
Representation."It is common and understandable to want a therapist that looks like you or that you can feel assured will understand your perspective from a cultural and racial standpoint. Unfortunately, we are also underrepresented in the mental health field. Data from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) shows that only 2% of the estimated 41,000 psychiatrists in the U.S. are Black, and just 4% of psychologists are Black — that doesn’t include my field which is Licensed Clinical Social Workers," said Lamitte.
You may feel ready to get into therapy, "but where do I start?" you may ask. "This isn’t common knowledge for most people," added Lamitte. "As a therapist myself, I am often helping my own friends, colleagues, and family members with how to find treatment, what to look for in a therapist, it can be overwhelming for those not in the mental health field."
We are here to help. Check out our Community Mental Health Partnerships:
- Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services
- Kedren Community Health Center
- Penny Lane
- Violence Intervention Program
For suicide prevention hotlines, visit:
- Crisis Text Line: 741-741
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- The San Diego PERT Team: 1-619-276-8112
Join us May 25, 2022 on Facebook Live @kippsocal as our Mental Health & Support Services team lead our #WellnessWednesday sessions.
If you have any questions relating to your student's needs, mental health, or support services, please reach out to your School Counselor for help, or email our Mental Health & Support Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org.