Meet Dr. Nicole Cammack, Dr. Danielle Busby, Dr. Dana Cunningham and Dr. Jessica Henry, a group of four psychologists setting out to make waves with their company Black Mental Wellness.
While each of the women brings unique experiences and expertise to the table, the team is united behind one mission: “We’re really trying to break down that stigma about mental health services in the Black community,” Cunningham, 44, tells PEOPLE.
Since Spring 2018, the organization has been providing culturally sensitive educational resources, programs and workshops, many of which are free of charge, according to their website. They also offer an ambassador program for students and working professionals in order to promote mentorship and establish partnerships across the country.
“If we look at the history of medical health care and Black people, it hasn’t treated us well,” Busby, 32, says, referencing a recent UCLA article on the legacy of mistrust in health care for the Black community.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, but only one in three Black adults who need mental health care receive it.
Additionally, Black adults are “less likely to receive guideline-consistent care, less frequently included in mental health research and more likely to use emergency rooms or primary care instead of mental health specialists,” NAMI reported.
“It’s hard for me to tell people to come [receive services] when I see it’s not always safe, or we don’t always have the resources for this particular group of people,” Busby adds. “That’s what made me so passionate about this. Having the resources available to make those things happen is really important.”
The idea for Black Mental Wellness initially came from Cammack, 39, while she was working with active duty service members on a military base in 2016.
“At the time, there was a lack of information that was accessible to the everyday person… and it was glaring, how many Black women were suffering in silence,” explains Cammack, who is also the program director of a mental health clinic at a D.C.-based VA Medical Center.
Busby, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital, works primarily with kids suffering from depression and at risk of suicide.
“A lot of times when I had families that identified as Black or African-American, they came way later… and were always on the more severe side of things,” she says. “That was alarming to me because if we can intervene earlier, we could have different outcomes.”
“In addressing barriers to care, money is often one of them,” Busby notes. “We want to assist in breaking down those barriers. It’s a small way, maybe, but a way for sure.”
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