Mental health for people of color has always mattered. But historically, it hasn’t received the attention it deserves. From traditionally disproportionate options for mental health resources to a shortage of minority therapists, history is replete with occurrences of psychiatric malpractice done to Black and brown Americans. It can be difficult navigating where to seek help. Especially if you find yourself part of a micro-community of color in a city like Seattle where the percentage of Black and brown residents is at its lowest points in 50 years.
Although mental illness doesn’t discriminate, medical communities, insurance providers, and education systems have been unaccommodating to people of color. With unyielding racial unrest and a pandemic that’s disproportionately affecting Black Americans at nearly three times the rate of white Americans, mental health in diverse communities is needed more than ever.
Mental health resources for people of color have been getting more exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic as communities have united to promote diversity and elucidate the historical roots of racial disparities in the mental health system. But in 2021, the question still begs — where can underrepresented communities find support in Seattle?
Carving space for diverse communities
With Washington state being 75% white, it can be difficult for minority groups to find healing spaces that feel comfortable and safe.
“For the Black, Indigenous and people of color community and youth, it’s important that we find spaces where we can breathe and move our bodies,” said Jasmine RaShae’, owner of the Soulful Flow Yoga studio in Seattle.
RaShae’, a Louisiana native, launched her studio in spring 2019 after moving to Seattle and witnessing the lack of representation and exposure to yoga and wellness for communities of color in the area. May is National Meditation Month and yoga, a supplemental tool for alleviating stress and improving mental health has rarely been offered to Black and brown people.
Many people of color experience a level of subconscious discomfort in healing spaces considering mainstream yoga standards and images seen for centuries are tailored to white people.
“Generationally, we often hold trauma in our body from our passage to the new world and what our ancestors experienced to get here, and then everything that has happened upon our arrival and what we are currently living through,” said RaShae’.
For some, not seeing similar faces in mental health programs and initiatives can lead to feeling judged for not fitting into a preconceived mold, even though many communities of color are no strangers to using yoga as a meditative practice to heal from injustices. Krishna Kaur, a black Kundalini Yoga pioneer has taught the art and science of yoga for decades. Angela Davis began practicing yoga in jail when she was arrested in 1970 for pushing back against an unjust system.
With less than 2% of Black or African Americans among the American Psychological Association, some feel that mental health care practitioners are not culturally competent enough to treat specific minority mental health topics. Coupled with an overall lack of resources, it can be challenging for communities to find relief from the pandemic.
So what are some ways that diverse communities can cope with mental health stressors in Washington? Seattle-native Toni L. Williams, mental health therapist and K-12 educator who specializes in adult and childhood trauma, offers these tips for overcoming trauma.
- Find a safe place and take time out for self-care with loved ones. “Creating time for self-care with people that you love has a lot to do with minorities being able to recalibrate for the week, especially those who work in a lot of nondiverse spaces,” said Williams.
- Lock in a therapist. Systematic imbalances in the mental health industry cause some minorities to feel forced to keep mental health concerns in the household. But you and your family could benefit from different, outside perspectives.
- Don’t brush things under the rug that happened in your childhood. “Things that we experienced as children that we compartmentalized and didn’t address can show up in different ways in adulthood such as pent-up animosity and random triggers,” says Williams. Many communities of color aren’t taught to cope with mental health stressors so creating spaces where they can address trauma, unpack issues and validate emotional burdens is crucial.
- Try not to internalize the lack of representation in Washington. “People of color are here in Seattle — we’re all just spread out in different areas for reasons like work commutes and rapid increases in the cost of living,” said Williams.
- Be aware of code-switching. The act of adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance and behavior in ways that will make others feel more comfortable in order to be treated equally happens often in the workforce for minorities. It can be exhausting for people of color and create a sense of forced inauthenticity. “Being able to take that ‘mask’ off and be in a place where you don’t have to deal with anything work-related is important,” said Williams.
- Utilize diverse mental health resources. Inclusive mental health resources such as Clinicians of Color, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation and WA Therapy Fund are great resources to begin your journey.
For many minorities, self-care is not individualistic, but a communal experience.
It’s critical, Williams said, to find the time and the people you trust and love, to “recollaborate” with.
“Therapy should be a safe space where you can come and process while gaining strategies for your ‘toolbox’ from a person who has cultural competencies from working with people that look like you,” said Williams.
Building that sense of community with people you resonate with, RaShae’ said, may incline you to get on your yoga mat and “get your body moving.”
Mental health resources like yoga, community circles and therapy are great places for people of color to begin to heal, get active and breathe to alleviate anxiety and trauma — and maybe even find joy.
Here is a list of local and national resources that strive to create culturally sensitive healing spaces for diverse communities. Although there’s still work to be done to improve the system that’s historically overlooked these communities, people of color are building their own tables where everyone of all shades can feel safe and fulfilled.
Local spaces for community, connection and healing
- WA Therapy Fund
- Washington Counselors of Color Network
- Black, Indigenous and People of Color Support Group
- Umoja Peace Center
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Seattle
- Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County
- Eritrean Association in Greater Seattle
- Ethiopian Community in Seattle
- Seattle King County NAACP
- Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
- Community Passageways
National online resources for BIPOC mental health
- Inclusive Therapists
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American (APISAA) Therapist Directory
- National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
- Therapy for Black Men
- Liberate: Black Meditation app
- Latinx Therapy
- The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation Resource Directory
- Black Men Heal
- The South Asian Mental Health Initiative & Network
- Free tool kit from the Community Healing Network and the Association of Black Psychologists
- Sista Afya Online Sister Support Group
- Ayana Therapy
- The Safe Place app
- Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM)
- Black Female Therapists
- Asian Mental Health Project
- Black Girls Smile
- We Heal Too
- Black Mental Health Alliance
- Black Mental Wellness
- Melanin & Mental Health
- Brother You’re on My Mind
- National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network
- Ourselves Black