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While COVID-19 continues to infect people throughout the United States, stress levels seem to be increasing as well, especially for minorities. Unfortunately, people of color (POC) don’t often get the mental health care that they need.
Aiyana Ma’at, MSW, LICSW is CEO and founder of Perspective, an online counseling platform prioritizing the mental health needs of the Black community. She took time to answer some questions for us about minorities and mental health.
You’ve stated that Black adults experience 20% more psychological stress than whites. Why is this? Why has anxiety and depression been so much higher in the Black community?
To be a Black person in America means that on some level you are dealing with trauma, discrimination, or trials of some kind just because you exist. Black people need a safe space to release this pressure and buildup of pain in our hearts and minds. Historically, African Americans have dealt with a tremendous number of disparities in areas such as mental health care access, health care and treatment, socio-economic status, and conscious and unconscious provider bias, just to name a few. African Americans have not always trusted many of the health care systems that are here to serve. These realities easily make a Black person more susceptible to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
What are the most important things that minority nurses can do right now to help protect their own mental health?
It’s important for POC health care professionals to make sure that they are making time for self-care and setting boundaries personally and professionally around how they show up to support patients and colleagues and how they are expected to show up. Health care providers especially cannot give from an empty cup so they must make sure that they nourish and fill themselves up every single day. Self-care is a must.
Why did you start Perspective? What do you hope it will accomplish?
I started Perspective for a few reasons, but the first comes out of personal experience. I struggled during my childhood and struggled even more during adolescence. I experienced intense loneliness as a child and have dealt with deep issues of abandonment and rejection much of my life. My saving grace came when my mom started me in therapy as a teenager. It was literally life changing for me.
I want other people—particularly Black people and people of color—to have access to being seen, heard, and healed too. Our community can often get stuck in thinking that getting support means we’re weak; we don’t have enough faith or that something is wrong with us. We also have to deal with potential conscious or unconscious bias from non-POC therapists and potential disconnects in professionals not really understanding the context in which we come—our realities, our way of thinking, our unique experiences. There are so many barriers that can get in the way of our getting help before we even get started and this motivates and moves me deeply to do my part in dismantling these barriers.
Explain what Perspective is, how it works, what it offers, and when it will launch.
Culturally Competent Counseling for the African-American Community. It’s 100% Online in all 50 States.
Perspective is the only destination of its kind online whose mission is to prioritize the African American community by providing culturally competent professional counseling via text, audio, or video, anytime from anywhere.
It’s convenient and affordable. Unlimited counseling is available at a significantly reduced cost as compared with in-person therapy. Accessibility will be from any device—computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, with bank-level secure encryption, via text, live chat and video sessions. We launch in Summer 2020.
Getting started entails a pretty simple process. Each person needs to answer some questions so we can learn more about the prospective client’s needs, preferences, and what they’re looking for. They will get matched with a culturally competent therapist who is selected specifically for their professional background and life experience to ensure they are a good fit.
What can Black nurses expect to get from Perspective that they couldn’t get from any other type of therapy?
Culturally competent counseling. Cultural competence includes a therapist’s ability to recognize and understand the role culture (both the client’s and therapist’s) plays in a client’s ability to feel genuinely understood, supported, and helped. When a therapist is culturally competent, it increases the well-being and outcomes for the client being served.
Is there any other information that I haven’t asked you about that is important for our readers to know?
If readers themselves or others they know are interested in learning more about our services they can go to www.therapyforblackfolks.org. They can also complete this brief 5 question survey if they (or someone they know) are interested in having someone follow up with them about exploring therapy: https://forms.gle/96csQ1rV9ctN8W2x5