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Black History Month

Black history month is an annual celebration that takes place during the month of February. It is a time to celebrate all of the great contributions Black people have made and continue to make, to our rich history and recognize significant events directly associated with Black people and the community.

Black History Month was founded by Carter Woodson, a historian, and author. Carter Woodson became increasingly concerned that the stories of Black History were not being told. Originally, Carter Woodson dedicated only the second week of February to celebrating Black history however, the celebration gained popularity quickly leading to the proposal in 1969 for Black history to be the entire month of February. Finally, in 1975 President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month stating “The accomplishments of African Americans have been too long neglected”.

In Psychology, we recently saw Black history made again. On October 29th, 2021 The American Psychological Association (APA) formally apologized for its “role in perpetuating, and failing to challenge racism, racial discrimination, and human hierarchy in the U.S.”. APA would go on to recognize that as an organization they fostered leadership “that contributed to scientific inquiry and methods that perpetuated systemic racial oppression”.

This statement is monumental because it recognizes the need for fundamental change in the mental health community in order to better support Black lives. Organizations that provide services to the Black community must be held accountable for providing services that are culturally responsive and social justice informed. Black clinicians make up only 4% of the mental health community. Representation in the mental health community is important and requirements should be made to educate clinicians and organizations as a whole on how to be culturally competent.

Other ways to support Black mental health:

1) Be aware of the literature on mental health and spread the word about what you are reading. Support, purchase and recommend your favorite books on supporting Black mental health. I just finished “The Unapologetic Guide To Black Mental Health” and I highly recommend it.

2) Follow and support Black influencers, Black mental health professionals, Black podcasts, and Black bloggers. The gems they are sharing about destigmatizing mental health are gold. My current favorite is “The SSW podcast”, subversive social workers podcast. In this podcast the host, Phi and Jess, “navigate what it looks like to dismantle oppressive systems and engage in direct, expressive conversations surrounding change”.

3) Keep learning about Black history. Continue to educate yourself on Black history. Keep up to date with current events/ trends that are affecting Black lives. While Black history months is 28 days, make it a 365-day habit to be informed, progressive, and supportive.

Just to help you get started on your journey of learning about Black History, I am including just a few individuals below who have made Black History in the field of mental health.

E. Kitch Childs- Helped in founding the Association for Women in Psychology and Chicago’s Gay Liberation Front. Childs is also well known for her work “supporting LGBTQ+ folks, people living with HIV/ AIDs, and other marginalized members of her community.”

Jennifer Eberhardt, Ph.D. – She has dedicated her work to shedding light on the consequence of the psychological association between race and crime and has done extensive research on the topics of implicit bias, criminal justice, and the education system. Her work specifically has been used to educate law enforcement officers in implicit bias training.

Alecia Allen – The owner of Keep Your Faith corporation January 2022, the first Black-owned and operated Licensed Behavioral Health center in the state of Virginia. They have been awarded several grants for clinical outreach programs in response to the heightened needs related to COVID 19 and other events impacting Black mental health.

For Black history month 2022, let’s make a commitment TOGETHER to support and educate each other and inspire those around us to do the same!

Sources:
https://www.apa.org/about/policy/racism-apology
https://www.mhanational.org/black-pioneers-mental-health
https://blackhistorymonth.gov/about/

Article written by TELL’s Renee Rugile