#MentalHealthMatters: Break the cycle and start the conversation in the Black community

Black communities in America are 20% more likely than the general population to experience serious mental health challenges, according to Health and Human Services. Yet the American Psychiatric Association says only one in three Black adults will receive the treatment that they need.

The problem is made worse during a time when a global pandemic and social justice movements have significantly impacted Black Americans’ mental health.

That’s why Community Health of South Florida, Inc. is starting the conversation with a special video released in honor of Black History Month. It’s called “Mental Health in the Black Community.” The video can be watched at chisouthfl.org/blackhistory

The video features an interview between Tiffani Helberg, Vice President for Communications, and Jean Pierre, Vice President and Chief Behavioral Health Officer. Pierre examined the factors that led to an uptick in patients at CHI seeking behavioral health services in the past two years, and yet, he points out that there are reasons why not everyone who needs help seeks it.

One of those reasons can be traced to a historical mistrust in the medical community, stemming from a lack of diversity in the medical field.

“At CHI, we’re extremely privileged,” said Pierre, encouraging patients to find a CHI provider with whom they feel comfortable. “We have clinicians from all races, creeds, and ethnic backgrounds.”

Other times, people will seek support from their faith community rather than from a mental health professional—a fact that Jean Pierre said is an opportunity to connect with churches and faith-based organizations.

“The churches in African-American communities play a phenomenal role,” said Pierre. “As a community health center, we have the opportunity to partner with our spiritual leaders and actually participate in the congregations’ activities such as health fairs and other outreach events.”

Nevertheless, CHI has made it easier to seek behavioral health services, he said. “The pandemic has enabled us to expand our telehealth services where patients can actually see a doctor, therapist, or clinician from the comfort of their own home.”

CHI’s telehealth services are an option for both adults and children, as well as in-person services at many of the 12 health centers across Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

As people continue to cope with the ongoing pandemic and other issues, relatives should maintain awareness of their loved ones if they show changes in attitude or daily behaviors, mood swings, appetite loss, decreased interest in personal hygiene and isolation—which could mean that it’s time to seek behavioral health services.

If you or your family are struggling with mental health, you can start a conversation with us at CHI by visiting chisouthfl.org/blackhistory or calling 786-272-2100.