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A therapist speaks with a client on a couch
July 28, 2023

BIPOC Mental Health Month: A Q&A with Veritas Therapist Chelsea Brown

Chelsea Brown, MSW, LCSW, is a PHP therapist at Veritas Collaborative’s Charlotte, North Carolina site. She received her undergraduate degree in sociology at East Carolina University and pursued her Master of Social Work from there as well in 2017. Since starting in the field, Chelsea has gained training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Chelsea worked on her clinical social work licensure from 2017 to 2019 and has utilized her supervision to gain knowledge around clinical and behavioral diagnosis while in the field.

Chelsea has worked within diverse socioeconomic groups that have helped foster her person-centered approach to treatment and building therapeutic rapport. She has mainly worked with the adolescent population in addressing behaviors and coping skills, as well as with parental approaches to increasing support and guidance in parenting skills. Chelsea has also worked with young adults through their transitional phases from adolescents to adulthood.

In this blog, Chelsea shares her perspective on BIPOC Mental Health Month, offering valuable insights into the importance of recognizing and addressing mental health issues within the BIPOC community.

What does BIPOC Mental Health Month mean to you?

BIPOC Mental Health Month means to focus on those within the community who struggle within their past trauma without adequate support in their environment. It means highlighting not only how a person presents within present circumstances, but also understanding their nationality and the cultural influences within their home, family, and community.

Professionals get to learn how to truly make the therapeutic experience person-centered when they are willing to learn about each individual’s culture, approach them appropriately, recognize their own biases, and work to build trust so that they can fully engage with their process. This month gives both a light and voice toward mental health concerns, judgments, and effective treatment modalities.

What is the impact of mental health stigma within the BIPOC community?

Mental health affects BIPOC communities in a way that has created generational trauma. I’m not only speaking as an African American woman myself, but also about those who come from certain households with strict ideals, religious influences, and overall different interactions with parenting, relationships, family, and boundaries. When professionals don’t understand or refuse to learn how to approach those from a different community, it can cause patients not to trust or communicate for help from those who are not part of their own community. This can lead to BIPOC individuals feeling jaded, resentful, and invalidated within their experiences.

What unique challenges do BIPOC individuals face when accessing appropriate treatment and support for mental health?

Some challenges they face can start within the home. Most within the BIPOC community don’t believe in therapy and therefore judge those who seek it. They receive messages such as “You’re being dramatic,” “There is nothing wrong with you,” or “What happens in this house, stays in this house.”

They also have disparities within health insurance coverage – particularly those who have Medicaid, which requires providers to navigate complex billing and paperwork requirements. Lastly, it’s a challenge to find a provider that fits their needs. There aren’t enough BIPOC mental health professionals, and this causes conflicts with getting in with those who may or may not have availability.

How do eating disorders affect people differently based on race?

Individuals of other races are affected differently with eating disorders due to cultural differences. The food is different, body types are different, and the mindset is different, with many in the BIPOC community believing you must eat all your food regardless of preferences or fullness. Or, thinking about the type of foods within BIPOC communities, they are stigmatized as “unhealthy” or “bad,” and you’re told to move away from those things without learning how to have them in moderation. Some individuals also experience poverty at increased rates and don’t get enough nutrition to nourish themselves. Lastly, body types can play a huge factor due to the comparisons from societal standards that thinner bodies are “better.”

How can we ensure a safe treatment environment for BIPOC patients with eating disorders?

The first way to ensure a safe treatment environment is by providing culturally competent training for professionals who interact with BIPOC individuals. Second is to seek and hire more BIPOC individuals within those professional spaces who can offer support and encourage those seeking treatment. This can help add comfortability toward treatment by promoting an understanding of the patient’s culture and increasing the professional’s awareness toward certain treatment needs to spread to their own networks of care.