Breaking mental health and wellness barriers in Connecticut

In minority communities, mental health is not easily discussed and is stigmatized. This is why mental health professionals say change must start now.

HARTFORD, Conn — The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for mental health and wellness services, especially in communities of color.

FOX61 kicked off Black History Month with a look at how local mental health and addiction professionals work to help break health barriers, build trust and fight the stigma of mental illness in Black communities.

In minority communities, mental health is not easily discussed and is often looked at as a weakness, vulnerability, or failure. This is why mental health professionals say change must start now. 

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“It is very important to have mental health services for the Black community because of all the racial trauma, the distress that we experience,” said Kelvin Young, mental health professional and certified sound healer. “It exacerbates a lot of mental health challenges.”

Young said these challenges are rooted in Black history. From historical adversity, like slavery, to the impact of the pandemic and recent racial injustices and protests surrounding police brutality.

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Dr. Chyrell Bellamy, Director of Office of Recovery Community Affairs with the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) said for many that trauma isn’t always talked about. 

“It’s imperative that we do something about it, that we’re having these issues and talking about mental health,” said Dr. Bellamy. “It’s not something that the Black community has opened up about but now we’re doing more of that.” 

Dr. Bellamy said 16% of DMHAS clients are Black. She said starting a conversation is just a step forward–bringing services into communities of color with people of color is vital. 

“Peer support can do magic for people and particularly people in our community,” said Dr. Bellamy. “Because when you’re able to sit down and talk to someone who has been there, it’s really powerful because sometimes you don’t even have to explain.”

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Young agreed and said now more than ever it’s important to see Black people in health and wellness positions. 

“It’s important for us to highlight Black wellness and health in different modalities so we can incorporate it into our life,” explained Young. “To bring about this sense of healing and wellbeing, we need.”  

There will be a Black History virtual event on Tuesday, Feb. 22 discussing Black Health and Wellness, sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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