You Are Not Alone: Baptist Health and Voices Institute Partner to Support Mental Well-Being in the Black Community

Selena Webster-Bass, Founder/CEO, Voices Institute.
Selena Webster-Bass (@websterbass) | Twitter
Selena Webster-Bass, Founder/CEO, Voices Institute.

By Selena Webster-Bass, Founder/CEO, Voices Institute – As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice unfold, communities of color experience stress, anxiety, depression, and racial trauma. According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), mental illness affects 17% of Black adults, 18% of Hispanic/Latinx adults, 14% of Asian adults, and 32% of multiracial adults. Recent suicide data from the Florida Health Charts shows the rate of suicide among African American Duval County youth ages 15-19 doubled between 2019 and 2020. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of youth ages 15-24 and the tenth leading cause of death for all Americans.

In response to the mental health challenges during these unprecedented times, Baptist Health in partnership with Voices Institute, community-based organizations and faith leaders launched the Resilience and Strength: Supporting the Mental Well-Being of our Black Community series. A three-part webinar series was held April through June 2021 focused on the mental health of elders, adults and caregivers, and children, teen, and young adults in the Black community. Each webinar session was led by Lynn Sherman, Director of Baptist Health – Community Engagement for Social Responsibility and moderated by Selena Webster-Bass, Founder/CEO, Voices Institute.  The webinar sessions included a Baptist Health clinician, caregivers, adults, and young adults who have lived experiences with mental health issues, and a faith leader. Baptist Health clinicians included Dr. Courtney Ross, Social Worker Kanoya Smith, and Dr. Tyrenia Cross.  Community voices with lived experiences in navigating mental health challenges as caregivers and affected individuals were Kandice Jacobs Robinson, Whitney Snider, Cheryl Deas, and Donnie Raby. Pastors Bruce Matthews, Jeffrey Rumlin, and Kelvin Lewis spoke about mental health through the faith and spirituality lens.

Key themes throughout the sessions were the importance of creating a village of support using technology and authentic connections, practicing mindfulness, and integrating one’s faith and spirituality as coping strategies. In addition, panelists emphasized the importance of parents and caregivers being present with their loved ones and making time for self-care. Clinicians mentioned the importance of finding therapists and mental health professionals that are culturally responsive and that understand the struggles of racial trauma compounded by stress, stigma, social isolation, and grief/loss due to COVID-19.  Links to the webinars are below:

Resilience and Strength: Supporting the Mental Well-Being of Our Black Elders

Black Elders

Resilience and Strength: Supporting the Mental Well-Being of Our Black Parents, Caregivers, and Adults

Parents, Caregivers, and Adults

Resilience and Strength: Supporting the Mental Well-Being of Our Black Children, Teens, and Young Adults

Children, Teens, and Young Adults

The sessions culminated with resources from the:

National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) Jacksonville chapter,

Baptist Health Crisis Line, and On Our Sleeves campaign resources,

Baptist Behavioral Health
904.376.3800 Appts & Info, Weekdays 8 am – 5 pm
904.202.7900 24/7 Crisis Hotline

July is Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Awareness Month.  The awareness month focuses on the impacts of culture, race, and background on mental health in racially and ethnically diverse populations. Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was initiated in 2008 by the U.S. House of Representatives in honor of novelist and journalist, Bebe Moore Campbell.  Bebe Moore Campbell was an advocate for mental health education and wrote books about living with mental health challenges such as bipolar and depression. She also was a champion for increased access to appropriate mental health services. In honor of the month, let us continue to amplify the awareness month message, “You are not alone. It’s ok to not be ok.” July 24th is International Self-Care Day. Here are a few self-care tips:

  1. Start your day with a gentle stretch
  2. Write down 5 things you are grateful
  3. Get more sleep
  4. Move for at least 30 minutes a day
  5. Take a mindful shower
  6. Notice the colors of the sky
  7. Have a mini dance party
  8. Have family dinner
  9. Say a prayer and meditate
  10. Volunteer one hour per month

For more information contact:

Baptist Health – Community Engagement for Social Responsibility

Voices Institute






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