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Black Folks and May Mental Health Month

By Nayaba Arinde
Editor -at-Large

May is Mental Health Month. July is Black or ‘Minority’ Mental Health Month.
May 5 – 11, is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
All are opportunities to highlight the issues and solutions, say advocates and mental health practitioners.

Suffering in silence is such a norm, unfortunately. Post-pandemic re-adjustment, social media, augmented reality, and altered states factor into a mental wellness journey.

National Minority Mental Health Month was founded by journalist and author Bebe Moore Campbell, the co-founder of NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness. Her daughter, popular actress Maia Campbell is unfortunately now known for her mental health and drug addiction struggles.

Mental Health America developed a nationwide effort to highlight the various mental health challenges experienced by Black, brown, and Indigenous communities.
Facing daily racist micro-and-macro-aggressions is faced as normal by most people who endure them, as they engage in routine daily activities and interactions.


SAMSHA – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said that “In the United States, 13.6% of the population (45.3 million people) identified themselves as Black or African American in 2021…only 39% African Americans receive mental health services.”
Yet, CVS Health and Morning Consult reported an 11% increase in African Americans reporting mental health concerns since 2020.

The report continued, “This disparity highlights the urgent need to address the barriers in accessing mental health care within the Black community.”

There are Black people navigating personal and community traumas, and tackling the stigma– walking around with tons of angst on their shoulders, shifting the weight daily.

Author of ‘The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health,’ Dr. Rheeda Walker, PhD, clinical psychologist, said, “While it is important to rest and recharge when you recognize you’re at the point of burnout, the flex is to STOP GETTING TO THAT POINT! What strategies can you implement to set boundaries and balance in your life?”

The professor, and author of “No Racial Elephants in the Therapy Room,” added that through her work she has sought to help people “identify practical things you can do to ensure that you are taking care of yourself and keeping your psychological fortitude high — because we need both to avoid burnout.”


Mental Health America (MHA) said, “Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about one in five adults had a mental illness. Without a doubt, the pandemic has affected the state of mental health in our country…It is rare that a family is not touched by a mental health condition.”

Mental Conditioning Movement co-founder and trainer Elliot Allen says that Black men are confronted by a myriad of challenges that can take a toll on their mental well-being.

The burdens can be overwhelming, from societal pressures to workplace discrimination and familial expectations. Black men persevere, regardless, he says, demonstrating resilience and strength in the face of adversity.

The author of ‘12 Rounds of Mental Conditioning: Us vs LIFE – The Big Fight,’ Elliot Allen believes that true empowerment begins with a resilient mindset, capable of navigating life’s challenges with clarity and confidence.

His methodology incorporates four fundamental principles that serve as pillars of strength for his clients: Self-Evaluation, Decision-Making, Big Picture Thinking, and Staying the Course.
“Life is really such a big journey,” said Allen. “Once you develop your big picture, you have to do a lot of self-evaluation. This is why the four principles are so very, very important because you must have that really honest evaluation of yourself. Sometimes it feels like things are out of control…life moves very quickly.”


“Sometimes it’s marriage,” Allen said, “then perhaps deciding to become a parent, finding a bigger home, juggling careers too. Sit in your car for a couple of hours, or take a long shower, create an opportunity to analyze your wins, analyze your losses, and take a deep breath.”
Divine Allah, community activist and health and wellness professional told Our Time Press, “Exercise is a therapeutic outlet for mental wellness.”

The founder of Mind, Body Activism, and member of Hassan ‘Giant’ Yasin’s Bartendaz fitness advocacy group, explained, “Bartendaz has a program called EAT – Exercise As Therapy, where we present a menu of mental empowerment, mental health tools a person can use as they exercise – like running in place while saying personal affirmations such as ‘I can do it.

I will do it respecting my health journey.’ It takes mental fortitude to decide to make a change, and sometimes people become advocates for physical training leading to an improved mental outlook.”

The New York City Council’s Mental Health Road Map stated, “New York City is in a mental health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this crisis both in our city and in communities across the nation.

Yet, the crisis predates the pandemic, created by decades of inadequate public investments and ineffective policies. Decades of neglect and disinvestment have left too many New Yorkers without appropriate, holistic mental healthcare, and our systems overburdened and ill-equipped to respond to the current crisis.”


The solution? “Requires investments in comprehensive, proven, solutions, particularly within communities that have often lacked adequate resources. Success will also require all levels of government – city, state, and federal – to coordinate solutions to increase access and remove barriers to mental health care and services.”

Last month, New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Members released their Council’s Fiscal Year 2025 Preliminary Budget Response and identified $6.15 billion “to help reverse recent budget decisions that have been destabilizing, and address underbudgeting in the Mayor’s Preliminary Budget,” including over $225 million for mental health services.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline