Mental health on the sidelines
Finding mental health care that fits an individual’s needs is often a difficult and time-consuming task, but it can be especially frustrating for black and other black people. A study published in the International Journal of Health Services revealed that Black adults are 20% more likely To experience mental health problems from the rest of the population. They are also more likely to witness or become victims of serious violent crimes, which increases the risk of developing a mental health condition such as PTSD, depression or anxiety. So far, mainstream mental health applications have not been up to the task of addressing those unique stresses.
“A lot of mainstream mental health applications are not taught about topics such as racial trauma, gas-lighting of races, mental effects after viral police brutality in the media, coloration, and micro-aggression,” said Jasmine Beyer, a black mental health advocate. Pierre is the creator Safe Place App, a free mental health app that caters to Black users with Black’s mental health stats, inspirational quotes, self-care tips for coping with police brutality, recorded meditations, and breathing technique lessons.
Given how institutional racism in the mental health industry shapes traditional treatment approaches and perspectives, it is not surprising that mainstream applications lack programs and methods that address the needs of communities of color. Despite the “ethnic calculus” occurring after the summer of 2020, many mainstream health apps have yet to offer any specific programs and resources that directly address the needs of BIPOC users. (Prism contacted Calm for comment on the diversity pledges they made last year, but received no response.)
This leaves a worrying lack of accessible and culturally relevant mental health care and resources. Dr. Basma Anwar, whose work centers around normalizing mental health care for people of color, says approaches tailored to the mental health of minority groups can make a big difference to recovery processes. Trauma in particular plays a large role in the mental health care needs of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other disadvantaged communities. But while the “cultural competency” training was a A major aspect of psychotherapy for nearly 50 yearsIt is unclear how many therapists have been trained to understand diverse cultural characteristics.
“The psychologist is really Western,” said Pierre. “A lot of those textbooks [mental health professionals] Reading and studying in college were written by white people.”
In addition, funding for culturally competent training and development of mental health treatment rare.
Bring relevant lived experiences to mental health
The paucity of mental health application programs and therapy that reflect live BIPOC experiences reflects a greater representation problem in the mental health care industry: only 6.2% of psychologists and 21.3% of psychiatrists are members of minority groups, According to the American Psychiatric Association. Statistics published by the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) reveal that only 3.7% of the members of the American Psychiatric Association and 1.5% of the members of the American Psychological Association are black.
BIPOC’s lack of mental health spaces and services is a problem that shines, An application focused on self-care That the BIPOC population centers and its employees the majority of BIPOC, tries to address. The Shine app offers a meditation library, tools and content customized based on user needs, and support from the inclusive community and mental health experts. The app provides tools such as a space for blogging and public forums to share experiences and ask questions about mental health. Shine reviews all of her audio meditations and bedtime stories through her “perks checklist” to make sure she’s not “pretentious, expensive, or arrogant.” This means that the guided meditation recording will not assume anything about the listeners’ race, gender, gender, and class, assumptions that can sometimes alienate users. Shine co-founder Naomi Hirabayashi said the Shine app also has most of its own content that has been expressed and created by women of color.
However, Dr. Anwar cautions that while minority-specific methods can provide validation and understanding for people of color with mental illness, sometimes seeking specific care can hinder recovery.
“There’s a level of growth that can come from having someone who understands and validates your experience, because you don’t have to explain that piece to them,” she said. But at the same time, I think there are a few things that can be talked about and actually translated [in therapy]. At the end of the day, you need a good therapist who knows what he’s doing.”
Overcoming barriers to mental health care
Despite the clear need for mental health support and care among blacks and other marginalized populations, there are also cultural barriers that can hinder access. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, up to 85% of black Americans describe themselves as “somewhat religious” or “religious,” and they usually use prayer as a way to deal with stress. Pierre’s Safe Space app also addresses this issue by providing specific tips for dealing with mental health in religious settings, but mainstream apps do not.
“Many black families are taught that strength and prayer are the only answer, or that the cure is for whites only,” said Pierre. “This way of thinking has prevented many in the black community from receiving help. The app helps normalize the pursuit of mental health support in a culturally competent manner.”
The reluctance to seek mental health treatment is also rooted in this A history of medical racism and violence in the United States. Discrimination and abuse in health care, misdiagnosis and Racial bias on the part of the medical staff They are really discouraging black people with mental illness who need certain spaces to heal. Communities with refugees, asylum seekers and also undocumented Struggling with reluctance to seek mental health treatment Due to the lack of culturally appropriate care and accessibility in languages other than English. the Rising costs of mental health care It’s also a great deterrent, even for those with health insurance — therapy, psychotherapy, medication, clinic visits, and other forms of care can add up quickly, especially for those who need lifelong treatment. Poverty can cause or worsen mental illness Thus, mental illness can worsen the financial situation.
Mental health apps offer potential alternatives that lack a history of trauma from medical abuse to BIPOC and other marginalized people, so it is important that these apps meet their needs to encourage use. It is particularly important for these applications to provide care that understands how racial and intergenerational trauma can affect the mental health of users.
It’s about addressing a mental health problem, but also recognizing [how the everyday] The essential experience that comes from being a person of color or from another minority group [includes a] Feeling that they are either being discriminated against, discriminated against, or not getting enough opportunities because of their ethnic background, class, or another part of their identity.”
The lack of recognition of these everyday experiences and their effects in most mental health apps is what inspired Hirabayashi to co-found Shine with Marah Lidey.
“As two women of color, [co-founder] His and I struggled to see our intersection being addressed in a comprehensive way via meditation apps, in the media, etc. Its co-founder Lidey is Black. “Everything from our skin tone, our family dynamics, and our financial background, we all felt different. It felt like everything about wellness was created with one archetype in mind. It wasn’t us.”
Mental health care still costs money
There are advantages for users who find mental health care and resources through apps — flexibility, no need to travel, go at your own pace, and programs tailored to your needs — but as with traditional areas of mental health care, managing mental illness through apps still comes at a cost. While some apps like The Safe Place rely on donations to maintain operations, most offer only a small portion of their resources for free; Full access to its content requires a paid subscription. Some mental health apps like BetterHelp offer sliding scales for online therapy services, but the lowest price stands at $240 a month, which is roughly 20% of your minimum monthly wage.
It is also often not clear how apps that offer treatment screen mental health care providers. For example, BetterHelp’s online therapy service was a source of controversy in October 2018, when users Found in small form written on the application website: “We do not control the quality of the Consultant’s services nor determine whether any Consultant is qualified to provide any particular service . . . We do not represent to verify, nor guarantee to verify, skills, degrees, qualifications, licensing, certifications, credentials, competency or background for any counselor. Along with others providing online therapy services, BetterHelp has been inundated with people seeking treatment during the pandemic – but the question is whether online therapy is working as it should hard to answer.
The high cost of some of these apps is something Hirabayashi wants Shine to address as well, as she believes everyone should have access to tools that help support their mental health. And putting accessibility at the heart of Shine’s messages has to do with how black and Latinx exist More likely to live in poverty of the total American population.
“Accessibility is at the core of Shine’s mission,” said Hirabayashi. “We intentionally have a free and premium version of the Shine app to ensure that everyone has access to Shine content, regardless of their disposable income.”
Shine’s free access includes weekday motivational messages, research-backed articles, and daily meditations, including three short morning, noon, and evening meditations that users can access at any time. But if users want to take advantage of Shine’s full library of meditation, personal tools, community, and mental health experts, it will cost $64.99 a year.
Ultimately, BIPOC’s mental health apps for BIPOC can help marginalized people find more of the support and resources they need. But mainstream mental health apps still rely on BIPOC to create programs that address their lived experiences rather than putting work into their own platforms to help bridge that gap. Moreover, it reinforces the idea that the mental health of those who are not white and cannot afford care should be treated as an afterthought, not an area of need to be addressed. Pierre said that while the onus should not always fall on BIPOC to make up for any industry’s shortcomings, the frustrating truth is that if BIPOC doesn’t, no one else will.
“That’s the problem,” she said. “Why do we always have to strain ourselves for the sake of society, while others watch from the sidelines and do nothing?”
Nicole Froyo is a writer and researcher currently based in Florida. She is working on a PhD in masculinity, sexual violence and media. She writes about gender in popular culture, as well as the feminist movement of the Global South, Latin and many other topics.
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