Illustration by Derek Abella
Updated on 2/22/2022
Racism has always starkly undergirded American life. While many white Americans have only recently become alerted to the realities of police brutality and other racist horrors against Black communities, people of color have always known and borne this burden.
Racism is a form of trauma so it’s understandable why experiencing forms of brutality, harassment, and stigma can lead to PTSD symptoms. From police brutality to health inequality and racist microaggressions, people of colors’ lived experiences of racism take a severe toll on mental health. Even if one does not personally experience these negative issues, repeated exposure to videos of racist police brutality on social media can also lead to similar PTSD symptoms. As a result of this profound stress, Black Americans are 20% more likely than white Americans to live with mental illness.
“Dr. Poussaint, along with seven other black psychiatrists, appealed to the American Psychiatric Association to add racism to the diagnostic manual in the 1970’s. While their request was turned down, they acknowledged that this matter needed to be addressed.”
Concurrently, the conventional mental health establishment has systematically failed communities of color. A lack of access to culturally responsive care — that is, care tailored to the experiences, values, and needs of marginalized people — can further exacerbate the mental health effects of racial trauma.
Yet communities of color have also always invented and invested in healing practices that challenge the structures and effects of white supremacy — part of what community mental health practitioner Obari Cartman, in a previous interview with Talkspace, called the “inherent genius” of Black communities.
Today, dozens of Black and people of color-led grassroots organizations, clinics, and collectives provide therapeutic resources for communities that experience racist oppression. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of these groups as a starting point; countless more are doing difficult, phenomenal community wellness work every day. These resources include both conventional talk therapy — often at subsidized rates and available remotely during the coronavirus pandemic — as well as self-care resources and healing practices.
Melanin and Mental Health is a network that connects Black and Latinx people to mental health resources. They provide a database of culturally competent therapists, and produce the Between Sessions Podcast, which includes candid conversations on mental health, self-care, trauma, and joy from “two brown chicks changing the face of therapy on both sides of the couch.” Their social media feeds also feature inspiration, resources, and tips on self-care during trying times.
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford founded Therapy for Black Girls as a blog in 2014, in order to start often-neglected conversations about Black girls’ and women’s mental health. Since then, the site has grown to include a database of culturally competent therapists, a podcast, and The Yellow Couch Collective, a membership-based virtual community that offers community connection and resources supporting mental thriving for Black women.
“It feels like we have this ongoing conversation,” Dr. Joy told Talkspace’s Ashley Laderer of the podcast and online community, during a May 2020 interview for National Mental Health Awareness Month. “It’s been a great way for our community to continue some of these conversations around mental health and how we can prioritize our mental health as Black women.”
Actress Taraji P. Henson founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in 2018 in honor of her father, a Vietnam War veteran who struggled with the effects of wartime trauma throughout his life. The foundation works to increase mental health care access, and decrease mental health stigma, in Black communities. The Foundation also offers a directory of culturally-sensitive Black-centered healing and therapy resources.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Foundation has been offering free therapy for people of color who are “experiencing a life-changing event(s) related to or triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The first round of funds has currently been dispersed, and the foundation encourages people to check back for upcoming rounds of funding dispersal.
Founded by Camesha Jones, LCSW, Sista Afya is a Chicago-based community mental wellness group that provides sliding-scale therapy, support groups, mental wellness education, and healing events for and by Black women. Their model focuses on community support for people living with mental health conditions, so that all Black women can achieve “healing, growth, freedom, and self-actualization,” according to the site.
Sista Afya is currently offering several virtual support groups for Black women to collectively process the moment of heightened trauma communities of color are currently living through. They also offer Black women-centered merchandise that make great, wellness-centered care gifts to oneself and others.
The Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective is a group of “advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists, and activists” dedicated to, in their words, “a world where there are no barriers to Black healing.” They take a healing justice approach, meaning that they emphasize the structural and intersectional nature of trauma and harm, as well as joy and resilience, in Black communities.
The group includes a directory of Black therapists certified in providing telemental health services, a series of video discussions on Black healing, event series on men’s and trans wellness, and toolkits for self-care.
“Mothers that experienced violence in a Black Community in the midwest came together and formed Mother’s in Charge. This organization’s mission was to support all mothers to increase their wellbeing, which affects all those around them. Their methods of dealing with trauma are traced back to African tribal solutions.”
Centered around the experience of queer and trans people of color (QTPOC), the Network seeks to address the particularly traumatic burden experienced by queer and trans communities of color by reimagining conventional mental health systems.
While much of the group’s resources are oriented toward therapists, they also include a directory of QTPOC therapists who provide culturally competent care. Their Radical Syllabus for queer and trans mental health workers of color is a great resource for practitioners as well as those looking to learn more about structural racism, queerphobia, and mental health.
The Loveland Therapy Fund is a nonprofit organization helping to defray the cost of therapy for Black women and girls. Academic, writer, and lecturer Rachel Cargle founded the Fund in 2018, after her birthday fundraiser raised over $250,000 to support therapy access for Black women.
Black women and girls can apply to be part of an upcoming therapy cohort here. Those selected can choose from a number of telehealth providers, including Talkspace.
Rest for Resistance is a web zine and support group that centers mental health, healing, and self-care for marginalized people, and especially queer and trans people of color. Led by a collective of trans people of color, the zine also provides paid opportunities for marginalized people to express themselves in writing and art.
“All people need to feel loved, safe and cared for. People of color may not feel safe or appreciated in certain spaces. Increasing activities and thoughts that cultivate self love and safety illuminates hope.”
Self- and Community Care
One demand of the ongoing movement against racist police brutality is for localities across the United States to divest from policing and to invest, instead, in community wellbeing, including education, housing, and healthcare. While protestors and policymakers have put forth many different versions of this demand, the underlying emphasis is clear. People of color and marginalized people, especially Black Americans, have an enduring and inalienable right to heal, thrive, and receive the support and care they need.