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BIPOC Mental Health Month Shines Light on Race-Based Stress, Trauma

Side view portrait of black student talking to mental health therapist or guidance counselor in college library
Seventyfour - stock.adobe.com
Side view portrait of black student talking to mental health therapist or guidance counselor in college library

The treatment of race-based stress and trauma continues to be a challenge, and experts say it’s important to focus on increasing advocacy and awareness.

Research shows Kentuckians of color are at higher risk of experiencing traumatic stressful events, which sometimes can result in symptoms related to depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mental health treatment addressing race is lacking, and experts said during BIPOC Mental Health Month, also known as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to focus on building advocacy skills and increasing awareness.

Dr. Steven Kniffey, senior associate dean, and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati, and past-president of the Kentucky Psychological Association, explained potential BIPOC patients seeking help related to racial trauma often run into roadblocks.

"There's more white folks that are available to provide therapy," Kniffey pointed out. "But they're not skilled in the ways that are needed to provide the support that our Black and brown folks need from a mental-health standpoint."

Mental Health America's online toolkit can help BIPOC individuals find the right mental health care. Online mental health screenings are also available at mhascreening.org. If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.

Kniffey added race-based therapy can help adults and teens develop skills for navigating microaggressions and create space for processing racially traumatic events.

"Having those spaces to process race-based trauma, because oftentimes, the traditional therapy does not allow that space to exist," Kniffey noted. "We want to create a more meaningful space for folks to do that."

In 2015, 86% of psychologists in the U.S. workforce identified as white, and just 4% as Black or African American, according to the American Psychological Association.

Nadia Ramlagan covers the Southeastern and Appalachian region for Public News Service (Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee), and co-produces 2022Talks, a national newscast tracking U.S. politics and elections.
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