Fighting mental health issues: The tougher battle for communities of color

Local mental health professionals say the stigma around seeking help is a problem in communities of color
Posted at 6:20 AM, May 03, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — We are all carrying the stress of this pandemic every single day, on top of everything else life throws at us. As a result, local mental health professionals say they’re seeing a lot of new clients.

"They have no choice, they realize I have to talk to someone regardless of what it looks like," said Erin M. Moss, a licensed mental health counselor in Buffalo.

She says a lot of those new patients are people of color. But it’s not just the pandemic weighing them down.

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"People that have been experiencing trauma, race based trauma. Both of those things are running alongside each other, that’s what I’ve been doing basically the entire year," said Moss.

The numbers reflect the heavy burden of those two sources of stress on Black and Brown communities in the past year.

Percentage of Americans that reported having a mental illness in the past year:

  • 17% of Black Americans (about 7 million people)
  • 15% of Latinx Americans (about 10 million people)
  • 13% of Asian Americans (about 2.9 million people)
  • 23% of Native and Indigenous communities (about 827,000 people)

Info: Mental Health America

These are feelings that so many people of color keep inside.

"People are afraid to come in, what that looks like, am I crazy? What is my family gonna think?" said Moss.

Mental Health

This stigma is a barrier that one local group is trying to break down.

"Words like depression and bipolar disorder, these are very English words and they don’t translate in many other languages, it doesn’t mean those issues are not there," said Kelly Marie Wofford, Founder and Principal at Front Seat Life, LLC.

Once people of color get past those barriers, in comes another one: lack of representation. Only 4% of psychologists are Black in the US, according to the latest numbers from the American Psychological Association.

Wofford lives with a mental health disorders and says here in WNY, there are mental health professionals of color, but they’re booked or hard to find.

Moss’s clients tell her it helps that she looks like them.

“I know there’s an added piece of comfort there and they understand that I understand what’s going on before they even open their mouths," said Moss.

So where can people of color turn? What resources are out there?

"Programs like the Mental Health Advocates of WNY they have tons of support groups, for things like depression, bipolar disorder, sexual assault groups, anything you can think of," said Moss.

There are even apps you can use.

"The Shine app, another is Liberate," said Wofford.

You can find more information on Erin M. Moss's services here. For mental health coaching through Front Seat Life, LLC, click here.

The Buffalo Center for Health Equity also hosts a number of mental health events to check out.

"You deserve to take care of your mental well being. Everyone is entitled to that, just like we take care of our physical health, I say all the time that our mental health is just as important," said Moss.

Important Phone Numbers
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, the following resources are available 24/7:
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Services (local) 716-834-3131
  • Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860
  • Trans Lifeline Canada 1-877-330-6366