(WHTM) — July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Dr. Ericka Pinckney is one of the cofounders of Black Therapists of Central PA. She joined abc27 News on Friday to talk about this important topic.
James Crummel: We’ve been talking about so many devastating events including mass shootings, school shootings. We’re hearing a lot about how important it is for mental health to be addressed. Can you talk about why that is such an important topic?
Dr. Ericka Pinckney: It’s an important topic because, like you said earlier, there’s been a stigma attached in the past, people worried about, “Will I be viewed as crazy?” or “I don’t want people to know. I don’t want to be judged,” or “I’m experiencing this in silence.” And our mission is to help facilitate those conversations and encourage people to take those steps. There’s resources out here, and you don’t have to suffer in silence. We want to remove the stigma and offer those resources to you to be able to get the mental health and the mental help support that you need.
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Crummel: For the past several months now, when it comes to mass shootings, they’re talking about increasing access to mental health help. As a therapist, do you see that that is something that is needed, and that is something that you could see warning signs if people were being better treated?
Pinckney: Yes, absolutely. One of the reasons why we created Black Therapists of Central PA was to be able to bridge that gap between community access. So in our directory, even though we have lots of different clinicians, there are still barriers. One’s access — we have clinicians who have waiting lists up to 30 people, or they may not accept your insurance. So there’s still those kinds of barriers out there, but we have at least our packaging together, Rosanne Johnson and I are the cofounders, putting this together to be able to make it not as uncomfortable and not something that you have to go out here and search hard for. We want to give you access to be able to make that process easier.
Crummel: On Monday during the Fourth of July fireworks, we saw the chaos that came out. People were running through the streets there as they thought that shots were being fired. The police said it actually turned out that it was firecrackers, but the chaos was real. If people were out in this, especially children — what should people be doing because this could have a lasting impact on them?
Pinckney: Do not minimize it. You don’t want to just be like, “OK, just go to your room. You’ll be OK.” One of the clinicians on our website, Nakeesha, she’s actually offering a free Zoom this week for parents and families who were downtown this weekend to be able to talk to them and offer those resources to be able to have those conversations with children, adults, young people, teenagers — a lot of people were affected. You don’t want to just sit and ponder with it. Talk to someone.
Crummel: This being Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, can you talk about the importance of why, for the Black community in particular, it is hard to reach out for help?
Pinckney: I think sometimes culturally it could be, you know, we’re strong, you pray about it. We encourage people to pray, you can do whatever you need to do, but therapy is also an option to you. You can do both, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. So I think now that that conversation, some of that stigma, the unveiling of that — it’s a holistic approach, and it’s OK to get what you need, and that’s why we’re here.
This Q&A was edited for clarity and brevity. You can watch the whole interview in the video player above.