Do you feel that mental health is experienced differently in the African American community? If so, why and how?
Racism in America undoubtedly impacts the way that the African American community experiences mental health. To say that racism exacerbates mankind’s already complicated enough struggle to survive would be an understatement. So many folks in the African American community are forced to focus on surviving, and not thriving because racism depletes energy and restricts resources that we would otherwise devote to our mental health.
Have you ever struggled with seeking and/or getting support for mental health?
The underrepresentation of African American therapists definitely deterred me from seeking therapy, for years; but thankfully, I discovered online communities of African American mental health advocates and resources for African Americans seeking therapy.
What is some advice you have for African American teens and young adults who are seeking mental health support?
I want African American teens and young adults to know that there are African American therapists like me who have a firsthand understanding of their cultural perspectives and lived experiences.
What is one strength and one stigma/misunderstanding surrounding mental health in the African American community? And do you have any advice for counteracting the stigma/misunderstanding?
The historical memory of betrayal by healthcare institutions and systems, including those that provide mental health services, is a strong source of stigma in the African American community. However, our legacy of organizing movements to hold institutions and systems accountable is a major strength.
Jeff Baker is a long-time mental health and suicide prevention advocate. Thus far, his advocacy work has included collaborating with Mental Health America to author the City of Houston’s first attitudinal public health survey on mental health, volunteering for the Trevor Project, and working with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
As a queer, Black educator and mental health professional, Jeff is especially passionate about advocating for culturally relevant mental health services in schools and the juvenile justice system. You can read more about Jeff’s work and personal experiences with mental health over at Huffington Post, Education Post, The Good Men Project, and The Mighty.
Recently, Jeff Baker earned an Ed.M. in Human Development & Psychology from Harvard, and he also holds an M.Phil.Ed. in Professional Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania.