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What comes to mind when you think of mental health? 


Commonly we may think about anxiety or depression, but the category is much 

broader than that. 


Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual wellbeing. In many ways, our mental health can impact how we deal with stress, relate to others, and make decisions. It includes anxiety and depression, but also encompasses bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD, eating disorders, substance abuse, ADHD among others. 


What factors can impact your mental health? 


Childhood upbringing, trauma, lack of resources, life stressors, witnessing abuse, and chronic medical conditions. I say all that to normalize what may impact people individually. Cultural differences can influence what treatments, coping mechanisms and supports work for us. It is therefore essential for culture and identity to be a part of the conversation as we discuss both mental health and mental health care 


What are the numbers? 

80% of people in the United States will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. During any given year that is 20% of our population. 

  • 50% of mental health conditions begin before the age of 14 
  • 75% occur before the age of 24 

I mention when they begin so parents can be on the lookout for changes in behavior. 


Signs and symptoms of mental health conditions: 

  • Irritability 
  • Anger 
  • Racing thoughts or worries 
  • Sleeping too little or too much 
  • Mood swings 
  • Excessive crying or sadness 
  • Feeling hopeless 
  • Loss of interest in things you enjoy 
  • Decreased or increased appetite 
  • In communities of color being subject to racism, discrimination, and inequities 


Barriers to getting help in the black community: 

  • Stigma 
  • Socioeconomic disparities 10% of the community don’t have any form of healthcare 
  • Provider bias 


Where to find help: Association of Black psychologists National Association of Black Counselors Therapy for Black Girls 




What to ask your potential provider: 


When meeting with a provider, it can be helpful to ask questions to get a sense of their level of cultural awareness. Here are some questions that make sense: 

  • Have you treated other Black people or received training in cultural competence for Black mental health? If not, how do you plan to provide me with culturally sensitive, patient-centered care? 
  • How do you see our cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment? 
  • Do you use a different approach in your treatment when working with patients from different cultural backgrounds? 
  • What is your current understanding of differences in health outcomes for Black patients? 


Other questions: 

  • What license do you hold? 
  • How long have you been practicing? 
  • What is your specialty? 
  • How will we work together? How long are the sessions? How often will we meet? 
  • How do you monitor progress? 
  • What forms of payment do you accept? 

Mental Health Awareness Month 101  was originally published on