Mental health is a universal aspect of human well-being that intersects with every culture, race, and ethnicity. Yet, for many people who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), accessing appropriate mental health services can be more difficult due to various barriers, including systemic inequities, cultural stigma, and lack of culturally competent care. July is BIPOC Mental Health Month and a time to shine a light on the importance of culturally-informed approaches to healing and mental health care.

The Importance of Cultural Considerations

Culture influences our understanding of mental health, our expressions of mental distress, and our coping strategies. For BIPOC individuals, understanding one’s cultural heritage and incorporating it into mental health services can be vital in fostering healing and recovery. A one-size-fits-all approach to mental health care often falls short in addressing the unique needs of diverse populations.

Culturally-Informed Approaches to Healing

Culturally-informed mental health care recognizes and respects different cultures’ values, beliefs, customs, and inherent strengths, using them as essential components in treatment. This approach allows mental health professionals to provide relevant, respectful, and empowering care to BIPOC individuals.

Culturally Competent Professionals

The first step in providing culturally-informed care is fostering cultural competence among mental health professionals. This involves ongoing education about diverse cultures, understanding the social and systemic factors affecting mental health, and incorporating this knowledge into practice.

Integrating Traditional Healing Practices

Many BIPOC communities have rich traditions of healing that can be integrated into modern mental health practices. For instance, Indigenous communities might employ techniques such as storytelling, ceremonial rituals, or community healing circles. Incorporating these methods into treatment can help promote a deeper level of healing and connection.

Recognizing Intersectionality

Intersectionality – the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender – profoundly impacts the mental health experiences of BIPOC individuals. Culturally-informed approaches need to recognize and address these interwoven identities and experiences.

Addressing Systemic Barriers to BIPOC Mental Health

While culturally-informed approaches can improve the quality of care for BIPOC individuals, addressing the systemic barriers often preventing access to mental health services is crucial. These barriers can include a lack of insurance, language barriers, socioeconomic disparities, and systemic racism. Working to dismantle these barriers can help ensure that everyone has access to the care they need.

Mental health issues in many communities are often considered taboo subjects, possibly due to cultural or religious beliefs and a lack of available resources. Furthermore, these communities face multiple challenges in accessing mental health care, making treatment difficult for marginalized groups and leading to several negative consequences. To address the rise in mental health challenges, it is crucial to be aware of the indicators of a mental health condition.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms and warning signs of mental health issues are generally universal across different cultures and races. However, cultural factors can often influence how they manifest and are perceived or expressed. In BIPOC communities, some signs that may indicate mental health issues include:

Somatic Complaints:

Some cultures may be more likely to express emotional distress in terms of physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, and other forms of bodily discomfort.

Changes in Social Engagement:

Given the strong value placed on community and collective identity in many BIPOC cultures, withdrawal from social or community activities could be a significant warning sign.

Cultural Identity Distress:

For many BIPOC individuals, feeling disconnected from their cultural heritage, grappling with issues around racial identity, or experiencing racial trauma could be signs of underlying mental health issues.

Silence or Denial:

In cultures where discussing mental health is stigmatized, individuals experiencing issues may downplay their feelings or deny that there’s a problem. This silence or denial can be a red flag.

Increased Irritability or Aggression:

This is a common symptom in many mental health conditions but can be more pronounced in cultures where expressions of emotional distress are not encouraged. It may be more socially acceptable to express anger or irritation than sadness or fear.

Impact of Racial Discrimination:

Repeated experiences of racial discrimination can lead to signs of mental distress, such as feelings of hopelessness, hypervigilance, or even symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Mental health is complex and influenced by a variety of factors. If you or someone else is showing signs of mental distress, it’s crucial to consult a professional, ideally someone who is familiar with the cultural background and can provide culturally sensitive care.

Finding a culturally competent therapist

Finding a culturally competent therapist involves more than finding a professional who merely respects diversity. It also requires looking for someone committed to understanding and working effectively within the cultural contexts of different individuals. Here are some key aspects to consider when searching for a culturally competent therapist:

Training and Education:

Check if the therapist has received specific training on cultural competency and is committed to learning about diverse cultures and systemic issues. They should be knowledgeable about different cultural practices, beliefs, and values and understand how these factors can impact mental health.

Cultural Sensitivity:

The therapist should demonstrate an awareness of cultural biases and stereotypes in themselves and society. They should be able to recognize and challenge these biases and approach their work from an anti-racist and anti-oppressive standpoint.

Personal Approach:

Ask about their approach to therapy. Do they employ a one-size-fits-all approach, or do they tailor their strategies and methods to each client’s unique needs, experiences, and cultural backgrounds? The latter indicates a more culturally competent professional.

Language Capability:

If English is not your first language, you might feel more comfortable with a therapist who can communicate in your native tongue. This can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure that you feel fully understood.

Flexibility in Therapeutic Techniques:

The therapist should be open to incorporating traditional healing practices or culturally-specific coping strategies into their treatment plan.

Awareness of Intersectionality:

The therapist should understand how different social identities (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.) intersect and influence one’s experiences and mental health.

Client-Professional Relationship:

Above all, a good rapport between you and your therapist is crucial. You should feel comfortable, respected, and understood by your therapist. Remember that it’s perfectly okay to ask potential therapists these questions directly. You’re not just seeking a service; you’re also building a relationship, and it’s important to find someone who can meet your needs and help you feel at ease.

At Serene Health, we strive to provide accessible and culturally competent mental health services tailored to each individual’s unique needs. We offer a wide range of behavioral health and mental health services under one roof, including online therapy and PrTMS therapy. Call us at 844-737-3638 or visit to schedule an appointment.