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How Dr. Joy Harden Bradford Is Helping Black Women and Girls Confront Mental Health

Photos: Courtesy of: Carol Lee Rose, Colurwrk

As a clinical psychologist, Dr. Joy Harden Bradford knew all too well the scale of the mental health crisis, as well as the stigma and lack of resources preventing Black females from seeking mental healthcare. She shared why these factors led her to start the platform Therapy for Black Girls, and the need for better mental health resources in underserved communities.

What inspired you to create the platform Therapy for Black Girls?

I created Therapy for Black Girls (TBG) after watching the Black Girls Rock Awards show on BET in 2014. I was so inspired by the energy in the room, even from my living room. I thought it would be cool if I could capture some of that same energy for Black women as it relates to mental health. 

Looking back, I can see that my experience as a psychologist working in college counseling centers also heavily informed my decision to start TBG. In working on various campuses, it was clear that Black women were not using the services at the same rates as their peers due to the stigma that we know exists toward mental health treatment. 

Out of that revelation, I began to run groups on these campuses for Black women to come together to share their concerns and get support. I see TBG as an extension of the work that started then. 

Why is it so important that we see diversity within therapy platforms? 

Having a therapist with a shared cultural background can make the process more comfortable, allowing you to engage more fully. There are so many microaggressions that occur in other spaces in our lives, it is entirely understandable why marginalized communities seek out healing spaces that are more likely to be affirming and safe. This often looks like searching for therapists that look like them and/or connecting with mental health resources and communities, like Therapy for Black Girls, that in some way mirror their cultural experiences. 

Women are twice as likely to experience depression, yet Black women seek care at only half the rate of white women. How can we make sure Black women are getting the support and resources they need? 

Continuing to talk about how our mental health is impacted by various factors and what tending to our mental health looks like can go a long way toward helping Black women get the support they need. Every time one Black woman shares her story, it opens the possibility that someone else might feel seen and know they are not alone. 

Mental health approaches for Black women and girls must be grounded in the various ways that we as Black women have been socialized. Things like the “strong Black woman” trope and the idea that “Black don’t crack” influence how likely we might be to participate in treatment, and how effective interventions might be. 

I invite those who want to dive deeper into tending to their mental health to join us in the TBG community. You can do this in a variety of ways. Check out the podcast for engaging mental health conversations, join us in the Sister Circle (our space designed just for Black women to be themselves and be in community with others), or use our therapist directory to find a therapist to work with in your area. 

What are some of the mental health stigmas you see today and how can we overcome them?

Even though lots of work has already been done to decrease the stigma related to mental health concerns, there is still plenty to do. 

One of the main things I’d like to challenge is the idea that you must be “crazy” if you need to speak to a therapist. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that we could all use support sometimes. Yes, going to a therapist when in a crisis may be helpful, but there is also some great preventative work you can do with a therapist without being in a crisis. 

Talking with a mental health professional does not mean that you have a “weak” faith relationship. Talking to a pastor or other faith leader does not preclude you from also talking with a therapist. Spirituality and faith can be great mediators against stress, but there are times mental health concerns will require more than this (i.e., talking to a mental health professional).

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