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BIPOC Mental Health Month

Youth Home has a special feature this month about a local effort to "amplify" the voices of Black therapists in Central Arkansas. And the educational nonprofit Mental Health America has posted an informative explanation of the name change from “Minority Mental Health Month” to Black-Indigenous-People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Month.

This annual recognition of mental health issues in communities of color was started in 2008 as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, named after an advocate for increased mental health treatment and education in the Black community. Read more about MHA’s change to BIPOC Mental Health Month and see their research on the communities highlighted during the month of July.

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, and the related mental health effects, have affected people of color disproportionately for a variety of reasons. Back in May, the magazine Self published a list of “organizations and people working to support BIPOC mental health during the new coronavirus crisis”. Take a look at “14 Organizations and People Working to Support BIPOC Mental Health During the Coronavirus Crisis” by Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez for an inspiring catalog of the efforts being made to address the public health crises of COVID-19 and mental health.

The online community publisher The Mighty offers a succinct introduction to major issues related to BIPOC mental health, in particular noting the connection between access to treatment and cultural/racial barriers such as minority representation in the mental health profession. Take a minute to read “Three Things to Know for BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month” to get a good foundation for this awareness campaign.

Local Black Therapists Speak Out with Digital Outreach from White Therapists

June 10th on Instagram was marked by #ShareTheMicNow, a project organized online in response to the protests against police brutality and racial inequality.

“This campaign was born out of relationships. We invite other Black and white women in relationship to recreate this action in their own spaces, with: #KeepSharingTheMic” was a message posted on @sharethemicnow on June 11.

Mackenzi Davis, L.C.S.W., currently a social worker at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, was inspired by the idea of Black and white professionals working together, especially to tell the stories she had experienced in her field.

“What if there was something like that for therapists?” she asked herself. And the more she thought about it, the more powerful the idea became. “I thought it was something that we could benefit from.”

To realize her vision, Davis recruited 13 Black and white therapists to work together: the Black therapists answering the same questions on video, and white therapists hosting the videos on their personal Facebook feeds to amplify their. She especially chose the word “amplify” because of the importance of these relationships, and having white individuals provide platforms for Black voices.

Newsletter July 2020 Amplifying Logo

Posted on Facebook at the beginning of July, the voices of these Black therapists have been viewed thousands of times. Starting with a group interview of Black male therapists, Kenzi and her partners connected Black and white therapists. White therapists “hosted” the videos of Black therapists on their personal Facebook feeds.

One of the white therapists who served as an amplifier was Derek Edwards, a clinical therapist at Youth Home. He was matched with Cameisha Brewer Dickerson, Ed.S, LPC, who is in private practice at cameishabrewer.com. Derek says that he saw his role as being an “avenue” for her voice to be heard.

“I wanted to help my partner in this project share her story and reach as many people as possible so that her voice and experiences could be shared, because I think it is important that we are intentional to learn from people who have different experiences than us,” he said.

Cameisha’s videos, still available on Derek’s feed, address the four main questions provided by Kenzi. Of particular significance was the importance of her finding a beneficial experience with a therapist who was also a Black woman, highlighting the need for diversity in the profession; and she also made a strong point about the issue of Black and white activism when it comes to combatting racism.

“One thing that my partner in the project stated in her video was, ‘It is not your fault, but it is your fight.’ This hit hard for me as my privilege often provides me the ability to choose not to engage…which is not the case for everyone,” Derek said.

And Derek emphasized the importance of educating the public, from all communities, about racism, inequality, and the connection of those issues to mental health: “There are many stigmas out there about mental health and minorities, and I want to create a safe place where others can feel heard and seen.”

The search for safe spaces and opportunities to highlight the experience of Black people continues for Davis, who is considering another online media project to bring out more important stories.

“It’s so powerful, so empowering,” she said. “I want to find more spaces and continue to amplify Black voices.”

To view more of the videos and hear some powerful, personal statements about life as a Black therapist, search for “Amplifying Black Voices” or “Kenzi Davis” on Facebook, visit the announcement on Davis’s feed, or click on the links below for a sample:

Jared Johnson, LPC hosted by Shalae Hesselbein

André Jones, LCSW, MSW, hosted by Rachel Pinto

Beatrice Klokpah, LCSW hosted by Lisa Southerland

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