After a Traumatizing Year, Black People Turn to Therapy

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Dr. Lewis said some Black people were experiencing a form of “shared trauma” as a result of the news media’s coverage of the George Floyd case and other high-profile police shootings, sometimes resulting in increased anxiety or nervousness.

“We’re being inundated with these things repeatedly,” he said, “and what I think increases and compounds these issues is that Black Americans in the United States already experience difficulties that seem to be linked to race already in their daily lives.”

Racism, economics and parenthood are sometimes topics of discussion for Str8 Mental, a virtual group that provides a space for Black men nationwide to discuss issues affecting their lives, said Brad Edwards, the community organizer for Dear Fathers, a platform that tells stories of Black fatherhood. Str8 Mental meets monthly, and sessions, which allow at least 30 participants, are led by two Black male therapists.

“Oftentimes as Black men, because we have not been taught to open up and discuss what we’re dealing with, we often think we’re dealing with those things alone,” said Mr. Edwards, who is Black. “These guys are really forming bonds. It’s purely strangers coming together, being an open vulnerable safe space and pouring into each other.”

Mr. Edwards said Str8 Mental started nearly a year ago and was born out of the effects the pandemic had on the Black community. “We created this just to have an opportunity for guys to come and start to unpack,” he said. “I think that the talks around therapy and therapists has started to become more and more common in the Black community” over the past couple of years. At least 700 men have participated, he said.

A string of large pharmacy chains have recently entered the mental health market. Since January, CVS has added licensed clinical social workers trained in cognitive behavioral therapy in more than a dozen locations, and Walmart and Rite Aid are working to provide similar services.

In addition, there has been a growing chorus of celebrity voices advocating for mental health treatment, including the actress Taraji P. Henson, who started a foundation to eradicate the stigma around mental health issues in the Black community.