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.
Araya Baker is a therapist, educator, and writer and activist. As a therapist and mental health advocate, Araya is passionate about working on behalf of marginalized groups to eradicate structural oppression that leads to mental health disparities. He also advocates within the mental health system to dismantle systemic barriers and to push for affirming and culturally competent care. From his work with national organizations such as Mental Health America, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and The Trevor Project, he has been deeply involved in transformative mental health advocacy initiatives. As an educator, he has worked with the School District of Philadelphia, has been involved with education justice initiatives as an Equity & Inclusion Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and has written for the Education Post. His writing has also been published in numerous publications, including Huffington Post and Teen Vogue. In 2016, Araya earned an M.Phil.Ed. in Professional Counseling from the University of Pennsylvania, and the following year, an Ed.M. in Human Development and Psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.