Today more than ever, individuals are more willing to promote mental health in the same ways that physical health has been prioritized. Regardless of this modern advancement, society has much more progress to make in regard to the discourse of how oppression impacts mental health. BIPOC individuals who work as doctors, counselors and therapists deeply understand how harmful the psychological effects of white supremacy can be, and this informs their work as BIPOC mental health professionals. Here in this blog post we will share the insightful quotes of 7 professionals who sat down with Verywellmind to discuss the current needs of marginalized groups. Their therapeutic approaches to mental health are influenced by their lived experiences of having survived oppression.
1 “As a Black woman and a high achiever who has spent most of my career in predominantly white spaces, I was often told I was too much for them and not enough for Black people. I also see how family and friends who are Black and queer, fat, etc. are treated negatively, which has increased my ability to empathize with any client who comes into my office. Seeing and experiencing the different intersections pushed me to create a protocol to treat racial trauma in high achievers.”
-Brittany A. Johnson, LMHC
2 “A model minority myth creates a stereotypical narrative that individuals of my community are polite, law-abiding, high-level achievers, that do not create disruptions and do not attempt to actualize themselves through leadership positions. Viewing me in this myth caused me to internalize the message that I should be able to perform certain skills at a level that I wasn’t able to.”
-ARIEL LANDRUM, MA, LMFT
3 “It is a lot when I am teaching as an openly marginalized person, and students feel that we are the only safe people to talk to, so they spill all their traumas on us. We care so we are empathetic and validating, but they also need a marginalized therapist.” In this way, Brown explains how there are fewer marginalized people working in fields like therapy, especially in academia, and are unlikely to offer a sliding scale, so it can be difficult to find a therapist who understands their experiences of oppression.”
– LYDIA X.Z. BROWN
4 “I identify as a chronically ill person. This not only affects my mental health, but being someone that experiences auto-immune disorders, I am constantly paving a way to receive equity in my occupation, in my health care, and in my peer circles. On top of already being Black, queer, and trans, these identities are undoubtedly linked to my mental health and how the world quite literally makes it difficult for me to remain alive and thriving.”
-SABRINA SARRO, LMSW
5 “Racial and economic disparities have blighted the ability to not only function but at times to just exist. Any person that has to reconcile this moral injury will have their mental health burdened. As a physician and a Black man, I have been in hospitals where I have worked for a significant period of time in my white coat, and once I remove it, I have often been immediately associated with the custodial staff, including in the eyes of other physicians I have worked with.”
-Howard Pratt, DO
6 “I am both a racial and a sexual minority who immigrated to North America as an older adult. In addition to this, I am also a highly educated person with considerable familiarity with North American culture, fluency in the (American) English language, and training and work experiences as a healthcare practitioner and clinician. All these intersecting aspects of my identity as an individual have impacted and helped shape my personal experiences, life decisions, and ongoing work as a researcher, educator, and scholar.”
-Renato (Rainier) M. Liboro, PhD
7 “As a Black queer woman, I grew up in predominantly white educational spaces—from elementary school to post-doctoral studies—and thus, my experiences with oppression have occurred throughout my entire life. In my professional life, I have worked in settings where I felt like an outsider. These experiences had a huge impact on my mental health, but I often hesitate to share them because I fear they may seem minor to some. However, this is what oppression often looks like—especially for professionals of color.”
-Juliette McClendon, PhD
- Oppression can contribute to unique mental health challenges when marginalized in multiple ways, such as Asian and autistic and trans, or Black and poor, or Asian and immigrant and queer.
- BIPOC communities are often assumed to have more stigma regarding mental illness, but when individuals seek support, they are more subject to misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatment.
- BIPOC mental health professionals can be tokenized and gaslit at work, but their experience of oppression can inform responsive practices to meet the needs of their communities.