This month, as we honour the lived experience of all Black people, great and humble, far and near, we take care to honour Black pioneers in mental health. We remember Mamie Phipps and Kenneth Bancroft Clark, acclaimed not only for their famous Doll study but also its instrumental role in ending school segregation. We commemorate E. Kitch Childs, a tireless leader for women in psychology and the LGBTQ+ community. We celebrate Dr. Beverly Greene, author of the landmark article “When the Therapist is White and the Patient is Black” and pioneer of intersectional psychology.
While we honour these greats, we must nonetheless remind ourselves of the history of systemic racism in mental health that continues to inflict harm on our Black people today. Decades of dehumanization, mass incarceration, scientific racism and sinister portrayals of the Black psyche have written racial disparities into our mental health system in sometimes invisible ways. Adult Black and African American people are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness than white people. The psychological trauma of racial unrest and the pandemic in the United States further highlight the urgent need to address Black mental health.
Yet an increased sense of racial reckoning and clarity may also be garnering some wins for the community. We recognize the plethora of ways in which Black wellness presents itself: from finding joy in resistance and community care; to exchanging quips and discussing important topics on Black Twitter; to dancing and posing to funky beats on Tiktok; we revel all those who have found their own special way to create Black Joy.
To all Black people out there: we hear you, we see you, and we are here for the ups and downs. If you are interested in exploring your healing, wellness, and liberation, please check out Mental Health America’s list of resources. In addition, our team at Ayana Therapy will strive to match you with culturally competent therapists that share your experiences.
To all our allies out there: here are some ways you can salute Black History, Present and Future. Educate yourself on the barriers to accessing mental health. Give the community space to process, and reach out when you see someone struggling. Support and donate to mental health organizations wherever you can. Last but not least, leverage your privilege and sustain your momentum in the fight against systemic racism in mental health.
 Greene, B. A. (1986). When the therapist is White and the patient is Black: Considerations for psychotherapy in the feminist heterosexual and lesbian communities. Women & Therapy, 5(2-3), 41-65.