As May and Mental Health Awareness Month just ended, you might have learned that mental health in America is not doing so hot. According to Mental Health America’s State of Mental Health in America report for 2021, the prevalence of mental health issues is increasing or worsening, and there is an unmet need for mental health treatment that has not declined since 2011.
You can probably guess what my next point is going to be: It’s worse for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Per MHA, there is a disproportionate impact of mental health concerns on BIPOC communities. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed existing inequities in healthcare for communities of color and compounded the secondary stressors that affect these communities more than their white counterparts such as food, housing, and economic security.
I know – another dataset showing how Black people are doing worse than white people. Another story highlighting the depths of the crisis we’re in. But it’s important to show that if you’re feeling stressed or anxious or depressed, it’s not just you. You’re not alone. And it’s important to note that the effects of racism take a toll on our mental health and our overall well-being. 
The CDC itself recently recognized this impact, declaring racism a “serious threat to the public’s health.” The health organization shared: “Racism – both interpersonal and structural – negatively affects the mental and physical health of millions of people, preventing them from attaining their highest level of health, and consequently, affecting the health of our nation.”
As Georges Benjamin, president of the American Public Health Association, told Popular Science, the declaration of racism as a public health issue “gives some substance and a way forward... it gives [people] a reason for changing their behavior or their thoughts.”
Knowing racism is a public health issue alone doesn’t solve the issue. With the understanding of how racism affects Black people, it is imperative that we seek out mental health resources for support.
Knowing racism is a public health issue alone doesn’t solve the issue. With the understanding of how racism affects Black people, it is imperative that we seek out mental health resources for support.


My sister sought a good therapist for years before she found one she clicked with. The difference this time is that her therapist is Black. Representation is always important, but working with a mental health professional who already understands your lived experience in a Black body can be life-changing.
I’m sure you have an example of the emotional labor you spent on white people over the past year (or week). Speaking to a therapist should help you ease those burdens and provide tools to help you cope with stressors. Taking on additional labor to explain to a white therapist who has not taken the time to do their own work of dismantling their internalized biases and practice anti-racism how the weight of oppression and white supremacy weigh on you counteracts the good that therapy should be doing.
Sites like Therapy for Black Girls and Melanin & Mental Health provide tools to find Black therapists and other resources for mental health care that remove the barriers for BIPOC in seeking care.


Therapy isn’t the only professional resource for mental health. Certified coaches are trained professionals who work with individuals to look for opportunities where they can improve themselves. Self-reflection, mindfulness exercises, and visualization are all activities that coaches can guide you through to learn more about yourself, how you can improve different aspects of your life, and what fills you up.
A recent client of mine had an experience at her job that upset her. When we met for our session, I was able to confirm why she was so hurt and upset: My client had experienced systemic racism. She kept trying to convince herself that she shouldn’t be as upset as she was and that she must have done something wrong. She was relieved when I confirmed that she indeed had experienced racism and suggested she should take a mental health day to process and give herself some space. I held space for her during our session to acknowledge that there are real systems of oppression that hurt, harm, and kill Black folks every day. That is precisely what she experienced. As a Black coach, I could see immediately her pain and the source of that pain.

Apps and Digital Tools

At the end of the day, mental health services can be difficult to obtain, whether through restrictions in availability, cost, time, or a whole host of other reasons why we can’t add one more thing to our plates. While an app won’t replace a one-on-one therapy or coaching session, it can augment an individual’s ability to carry the burdens they bear a little more easily. Apps with breathing exercises, meditations, and stretching are more impactful than you might think. Deep, abdominal breathing reduces stress and anxiety, increasing oxygen to your brain and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system – or the system that promotes calm in the body.
Try out this two-minute breathing exercise now and see for yourself:

Box Breathing

Close your eyes if you feel safe to do so, or you can set your gaze upon something in the space you are in.
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Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Try to focus on your breath and relax your jaw.
Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color have faced exceptional challenges in the past year. Continuously take stock of what you need to fill your cup.


Katara McCarty