Dr. Jessica LoPresti, PhD
WhiteFlag Chief Medical Officer
As a clinical psychologist, I spend significant time focused on arming Black Americans with the resources, coping skills, and resilience to thrive in a society where the barriers are stacked high against us. In working within Black communities, as a Black woman, what I’ve found is that we are building beautiful, diverse, community-based, and values-based lives across our country and world despite the weight we carry and the barriers in front of us.
I want to focus this blog on changes to our communities and healthcare contexts that can create more space and resources for mental health and wellness for Black Americans.
The Healthcare Environment
One of the most apparent symbols of lack of inclusion lies within healthcare settings. Walking into a hospital, community health center, physician’s or therapist’s office where Black Americans are not represented is a sign that Black Americans do not belong in that setting. Lack of representation can be characterized as an environmental microaggression and is connected to the lack of access to quality and effective mental healthcare for Black Americans.
1. Hire more people of color in your healthcare settings.
2. Train healthcare providers and staff in inclusive and culturally responsive practice.
3. Retain healthcare professionals of color by ensuring that the work environment is inclusive and equitable.
What are we teaching our children?
Children are the cornerstone of building a society where people thrive regardless of racial identity. Something that is often misunderstood is how we should be teaching our children about race and racism. Sadly, race and racism are there, whether we teach our children how to talk about it or not. In fact, children of color experience racism and are aware of those experiences as early as 3 years old. We can teach our children about race and racism in a developmentally appropriate way which will ensure that all of our children receive equitable access to education and opportunity.
1. Introduce your children to diverse racial identities through books, television, and film.
2. Teach your children about the contributions made to our country and world by people of color.
3. And yes, teach them about racism. You can start by teaching them about the history of our country in an honest way. Knowledge ensures that we do not repeat past mistakes as a society.
Access to Resources
Upward mobility is inextricably linked to access to resources. Within your communities, workplaces, and healthcare settings, think about resources that have helped you thrive. Often these resources include financial privilege, access to quality healthcare, tutoring, safety, nourishing food, clean water, and support systems. By and large, Black Americans do not have equitable access to many of the resources that are germane to health and wellness. Try thinking about the resources you have access to and how you can widen that access to others, especially folks and communities of color.
The last thing I’ll say. Often, from my space of much privilege, I try to remember that I should be listening more to people around me who have different experiences in the world than me. Reminding myself that it is always possible that my perspective is not the only perspective or necessarily the right perspective leads to positive change in me and those around me.
Let’s continue to celebrate that richness, beauty, and diversity of Black culture through our words and deeds.
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