Shahem Mclaurin knows that it is difficult for people of color to find mental health professionals who look like them. And the licensed social worker is well aware that it is one of the main reasons many people of color don’t get the care they need. So, Mclaurin is one of a growing number of Black mental health professionals who are championing the cause of representation in the field of mental health and trying to reach people who need help where they are, on TikTok. “I am a Black, queer therapist, and I want to showcase myself being fully that,” Mclaurin said. “I always say, ‘My durag is part of my uniform.’” In that durag, Mclaurin keeps it real, answering tough questions and sharing raw personal stories.
According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black Americans are more likely to report lasting feelings of emotional distress, including sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness, than white Americans. However, only one in three African Americans who need mental health care are actually getting it, which is likely due to the lack of diversity in mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, only 4 percent of psychologists in this country are Black.
With over 1 billion users each month, TikTok already has a massive built-in audience. And just like hair tutorials and cleaning hacks, it has become an increasingly popular platform for people searching for content posted by mental health professionals. The hashtag #mentalhealth has garnered more than 28 billion views. Other related hashtags specific to Blacks, such as #blacktherapist and #blackmentalhealth, have received millions of views on the platform, making it the perfect place for mental health professionals to find people looking for help who don’t know where else to turn.
Kojo Sarfo, a Los Angeles-based psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, has gained 2 million followers who watch her dances and skits about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders and other mental health conditions. But while some mental health professionals use TikTok to put a lighter spin on topics that can be difficult to discuss, others use the platform as an extension of their practice, like Virginia-based psychologist, Patrice Berry. Because there is a waiting list for her private practice, she uses TikTok as a forum to respond to questions.
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SOURCE: The Root, Angela Johnson