“Being in this field is a benefit because it’s been a model in my own family in normalizing mental health, normalizing talking about your own mental health and not feeling shamed or guilty for reaching out when you’re struggling.
Allyson is passionate about health equity, in fact, she has devoted her career to it. Allyson joined the Jefferson Center team in 2016 as a behavioral health clinician and now works in professional development at the center. She established a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Color) focused initiative at Jefferson Center, and supports the Diversity Equity and Inclusion work creating a culture of inclusion and safety for all. Today Allyson works in professional learning and development at Jefferson Center and trains clinicians, administrative staff and community partners about inclusive equitable care.
Allyson sat down with us to talk about mental health in the Black community, her focus on improving access to care, and how her own experiences have helped.
The history of trauma, mistreatment, and distrust towards the medical profession has created an avoidance of mental health care for many Black Americans. Many look for other sources of support. “I grew up in the church where I was very active. My grandma is very faith-based and a big part of that community is believing that prayer and community can solve what you’re going through.” Allyson describes a shared belief with the Black community that prayer and the support of a community can solve problems. “Although it’s important to have community resources and support, this idea has fostered “super-man” type individuals that have a hard time connecting and understanding their feelings,” said Allyson.
While working to reduce barriers to care in her professional life, Allyson recognizes the change that comes from the inside out.
“Being in this field is a benefit because it’s been a model in my own family in normalizing mental health, normalizing talking about your own mental health, and not feeling ashamed or guilty for reaching out when you’re struggling. Just in my own family, being able to communicate with my siblings, with my mother, being able to talk to them about how I’m feeling. I am able to encourage them or provide feedback to them like ‘hey, mom, maybe all the trauma you experienced as a child and never got therapy for is impacting you now.’ And I think that breaking down those barriers and improving access, in general, will do the same for other people. That’s why this topic of Black mental health is so important to me.”
Her dedication to this field, honesty about mental health in her community, and willingness to share her experience with mental health topics will hopefully garner more understanding of mental health in the Black community, why the stigma exists, and what we can do to further prevent inequities and disparities.