Germantown community members gathered recently to discuss mental health for people of color.
The discussion was held at Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books and led by Brandelyn Hankins, mental health therapist and founder of Ignite The Conversation, Incorporation.
Her goal is to offer free workshops throughout Philadelphia to have open discussions about mental health in Black communities.
“I felt like this conversation needed to be had,” Hankins said. “I really didn’t see workshops like this happening in the City of Philadelphia that much. So I wanted to offer free workshops for the residents of Philadelphia to come and learn about mental health and receive resources for themselves.”
Hankins founded Ignite the Conversation a year ago because she felt that conversations about mental health were being ignored in Black communities. When asked what types of mental health illnesses Hankins has experienced with people of color, she noted majority of what she’s seen is that people can’t identify what they are experiencing.
“You may have stomach aches all the time, headaches but you don’t know the name of it,” she said. “You go to the doctor and they can’t really give you an explanation and it turns out you have anxiety. Putting a name to what people are experiencing is what I’ve been seeing as well as unresolved trauma such as sexual abuse or gun violence. We as people of color have experienced so much trauma and we’re not giving the opportunity or space to process it.”
Hankins offers tips when dealing with mental health issues: Seek out a support system, whether it’s a mental health therapist or friend; and listen to someone, who may need you to lend an ear.
“The biggest thing is understanding that a lot of our self-medication can be translated into ways where someone can seek support through a therapist or through books,” said Donovan Richardson, mental health intern, and financial services expert.
Over the past ten years, Richardson has been studying mental health and suggests that if people are unsure of where to start, dial 2-1-1, a free 24-hour hotline servicing to health and human services. Those receiving healthcare through individual private insurance or government state healthcare, members can seek assistance for mental health concerns.
“There are resources out there where you’re not spending too much money out of pocket,” he said. “Usually, therapist are identified for those who are wealthy but there are opportunities where you can get in front of a therapist without cost or a very low cost depending on your income.”