Healing while Black: Virtual summit aims to address mental well-being for people of color

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month - a time when the spotlight focuses on historically underserved groups. Bay Area counselors told FOX 13 talking about mental health is crucial to healing.

As the country reckons with racial injustice, therapists are calling attention to disparities in mental health care and hope to find ways to address those gaps.

People from across the country will tune in for a common goal Friday, the last day of July. A virtual conference dedicated to the topic of mental health in minority communities will address the many challenges people of color face.

“This summit allows us to learn from each other so that we can begin to close the gap when it comes to representation, when it comes to intervention and when it comes down to the integration of strategies that work,” explained Dr. LaDonna Butler, a licensed mental health counselor and the CEO of The Well for Life in St. Petersburg.

Dr. Butler is one of the organizers of the annual conference for minority mental health.

She says the pandemic is having an especially strong impact on Black and brown families.

“We are seeing a rise in the individuals seeking services. We’re seeing a rise in individuals reporting a sense of anxiety and depression,” Butler said.

The federal government reports that minorities are less likely to have access to mental health services and are less likely to use them. The summit aims to share why representation in this field matters.

“When we see people that look like us, that can also provide these types of services to us, it makes the stigma of receiving mental health, no matter what realm or arena of mental services, it makes those things a lot more feasible,” explained The Well for Life counselor Chasity Chandler.

The virtual talks are not just for professionals and policymakers -- but families, too.

“The term itself is one that may prevent families from seeking support services,” explained USF St. Pete Family Studies Center director Dr. James McHale. “The real aim is to make sure that communities of color have access not only to services but to all of the understanding about child development.”

Anyone can attend the virtual conference Friday. Bay Area counselors said it brings together diverse voices from across the country to figure out the best way to move forward.

For information on attending the virtual summit visit www.healingwhileblack.org.