Black Mental Health Insight

Black Mental Health Insight

The Culture with Jessica Garrett Modkins (TCWJM) for season 7. Get ready for this electrifying new season. TCWJM delves into captivating conversations that celebrate the richness of Black culture and explore topics that matter most!

In this special episode, TCWJM is joined by therapist extraordinaire Belinda Gordon-Battle, MED, MS, LMHC, and the insightful Delphine Gervais, LCSW-QS, together they shine a spotlight on Black mental health and share essential insights that will resonate with everyone.

On the Trajectory into the field of Mental Health, Delphine Gervais, LCSW-QW shares that “trajectory catapults us into a space we’re not familiar with or never saw ourselves to be in. But I think lived experiences for me are part of the reason why I went into the field of social work and ultimately became a therapist. When you grow up seeing spaces that include disadvantaged individuals, people who are not necessarily heard as a child, you kind of say, well, I know that I want to make a difference. Just not knowing how. I always thought I’d be a journalist. Then I realized journalists don’t get paid that much. And what was I going to tell my Haitian parents about going to write? But going into social work helped me to figure out this is where I needed to be.”

When asked What made her decide that my lifelong career would be based in mental health? Belinda Gordon-Battle, MED, MS. LMHC states “in seventh grade, I spoke to my guidance counselor and I said,” Why aren’t you helping these kids?” And she looked at me and said, “I don’t have time. I’m a guidance counselor. They need a therapist.” And in seventh grade, I said to myself, well, what is a therapist? What does that mean? And I realized, in my community, in rural Virginia, there were no mental health services. There was not a psychologist, there was not a therapist.

There was barely a social worker. And so for me, it was an opportunity to always be able to be that person, to be able to say” There are other people in my community that need support” and” Let me see if I could be that person to provide that support.” So, ever since seventh grade, that’s been my goal. To make sure that our community understands mental health and understands mental wellness, and has people, resources, and opportunities to make sure that they are in their best mental capacity in order to deal with everything else that’s going on in the world.

The creation of Just Be the Breakthrough, a nonprofit that focuses on the mental health of mental health professionals started from a lunch where the two had a lot in common and 10 years later they are still building the company.

Gervais, recounts a memories of a former colleague, Cinnamon. “Cinnamon Key was actually someone I had met yet again in a different space of occupation and time where I hadn’t seen her for years. And then in connecting with Belinda years later, we realized we knew Cinnamon. In 2021, we had embarked on a small endeavor of bringing together a few clinicians to do what was called I’ve Got Five On It. And it was a video during the pandemic where we had colleagues just each come together and give five simple tips on what it would be like to ground ourselves. Cinnamon was supposed to be one of our colleagues up until the very last few weeks of planning. And unfortunately, she passed suddenly. I remember it was a Sunday, Belinda and I were like, well, she’s not feeling well, let’s go ahead and try to see what we can get to her. And unfortunately, nothing on our part was successful. But I think Belinda and I, in the grief and loss of our colleague who touched so many different people, we realized that similar to what Mr. Rogers says when he says to “look for the helpers”. But we’re taking it a step further. Who is here to help the helpers?”

BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as Minority Mental Health Month. Gordon Battle and Gervais continue to push to fact that it is ok to seek professional help in communities that are accustomed to going to their pastor, clergy, etc.  Gordon-Battle, “the month is there for us to make sure the community is aware, but Delphine and I wanted to just take a moment to make sure that we support it, celebrate it, and acknowledge BIPOC mental health professionals.

Gervais, “We still represent a very small minority in this field, considering that the people we serve that look like us are taking up a larger part of the client group. So imagine, 1% of us as professionals dealing with 99.9% of a client group. Truth be told before you walk in to see just anybody, you would want to see someone who may not necessarily live a similar life, but you can kind of assume there is an understanding of the lived experience.”

Gordon-Battle, “That we share some experiences before you even have to dig deep. You say, oh, we can relate. We watch the same shows. We understand the same culture, we eat the same food, we like the same music, we can relate to each other.”

Gervais, “Where the client themselves or the patient isn’t spending as much time trying to explain. Because It’s one thing I’m coming in with my problems, but now I have to pause long enough to explain why someone touching my hair is a problem. I’m here to deal with my problem. Not to explain why it’s a problem.”

The 2nd Annual BIPOC Mental Health Professionals Brunch is a curated experience just for mental health professionals only to come together. The acronym BIPOC, Black and Indigenous People Of Color, “means people that look like you and look like me, that are willing to come into a room and just share an experience. “ Gervais, “And people who speak different languages, from different places of origin, different diasporas, too. Because when we hear the word either BIPOC or minority, I think we drill in into either one or two Cultures but we are talking about Asians, Indians, Pacific Islanders, people with Caribbean heritage, African American, those with African heritage. That’s what we mean when we say BIPOC.

Gervais, “Especially in a time where most of us are remote, or we’re just different parts of two or three countries. Sometimes people are excited to reconnect. Especially within the company of other great colleagues in this field. Colleagues that look like us. When Belinda and I connected, it was just us two legit. And so like, you know, two girls on the playground. She looks like me. I look like her. We need to be friends. That’s how it is in our world. Sometimes in the line of work that we’re in. And I know for me, had it not been for colleagues like Belinda and others, even throughout the pandemic on text messaging, remaining connected. But to be in person, breathing the same air, drinking the same drinks.”

Gordon-Battle, “And coming together and having a conversation, nurturing each other, you know, having some peer acknowledgment because sometimes in this field you don’t get acknowledged. You’re working with clients directly and they’re trying to take care of their own needs, so they don’t have that opportunity to really acknowledge you. So this gives you a chance for your peers to be acknowledged. This platform, The Culture and Hip Rock Star, continuously supports efforts to make sure mental health is at the forefront. And so we appreciate everything that they’ve done to pour into our work and to make sure that we can continue to share our work with the community. It means so much.

The celebration of Black mental health therapists continued at their 2nd annual BIPOC Mental Health Professionals Brunch! Saturday, July 29th, from 10 am to Noon at West Elm South Beach, stay tuned as mental health professionals come together to support Black Mental Professionals who have been doing incredible work in our communities.