7 Mental Health Advocates That Are Black Women


In a post-pandemic society with roots in racism, classism, misogyny and war; that’s dominated by extreme politics and social media; the presence of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression should come as no surprise. Just because someone may have a mental illness, that doesn’t mean something is inherently “wrong” with them. Life isn’t perfect for anyone. Everyone has struggles that they have to face, and no one should be gaslighted into thinking that they have to face and fix their issues completely on their own. 

Psychology studies show that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness. While mental illness isn’t bounded by race, gender, age, etc., social factors can play a role. Given the intersectionality between gender and race, Black women can face unique inequities when it comes to their treatment in society, which has the potential to affect their mental health.

In a study done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, researchers highlight that due to systemic and social factors that affect specifically African American women, there is an increased risk of mental illness amongst them, but a low frequency of women actually going to seek treatment. The study continues to examine what prevents Black women from finding care. One of the biggest blockades throughout recent history is the stigma that can be associated with mental illness. Many people in general are hesitant to receive therapy or medical treatment because they don’t want to look “crazy” or “weak” and this is emphasized with Black women. 

“There’s a feeling in a lot of Black communities that women have to be strong and stoic,” said featured expert, Dr. Erica Martin Richards, in a study done by John Hopkins Medicine. “Women are so busy taking care of everyone else — their partners, their elderly parents and their children — they don’t take care of themselves. However, women should be reminded that attending to their own needs, whether physical or emotional, doesn’t make you weak. It makes you better able to care for your loved ones in the long run.”

Lack of representation also plays a role. Many people look for a therapist that can relate to them on some level. For people of color, some may feel more comfortable with someone that looks like them or someone that is understanding of factors below the surface level issue. However, Dr. Richardson also points out in the John Hopkins Medicine article that women of color only account for under “five percent of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers available to treat patients.”

Black women deserve to be able to find and receive the best mental health services for them. It’s time to relinquish the stigma, and recognize Black women that are putting in the work and making significant strides in the mental health field. So, here are seven Black female mental health professionals to check out.

Nicole Lewis

Nicole Lewis is a licensed clinical social worker that is determined to bridge the gap between Black women and quality mental healthcare accessibility. She is the CEO of Legacy Members Club, which is a Black women’s mental health membership. She also has a podcast and newsletter. On social media, she shares mental health tips and educates her followers on different Black mental health pioneers.

Dr. Joy DeGruy

Dr. Joy DeGruy is an expert in the social work field. She is also a world renown researcher, author and educator. In 2017 she published her book, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.” The book explores the longterm mental health impacts from slavery that are passed down through generations.

Dr. Thema Bryant

Dr. Thema Bryant is a psychologist, minister and author. She currently is the 2023 president of the American Psychological Association which is the country’s leading psychology organization. She has a mental health podcast, offers holistic mental health services, and is a member of the Association of Black Psychologists.

Dr. Robin Smith

Sirius XM Urban View’s very own Dr. Robin Smith is transforming “adversity into purpose and power.” She’s a licensed psychologist, a media personality, speaker and best-selling author. Dr. Robin dives deep into personal issues to expose the roots of problems and introduce the steps to heal and grow. You can tune into “The Doctor Robin Show” on SiriusXM Channel 126 every Sunday at 11 AM ET.

Evelyn Polk Green

Evelyn Polk Green, who’s been nicknamed “The Godmother of ADHD,” was the president of both the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Being someone with ADHD herself and also a mother to two sons with ADHD, Green has been a strong advocate for individuals with ADHD-especially in marginalized communities-for over 25 years.

Dr. Raquel Martin

Dr. Raquel Martin is a licensed psychologist and a professor at Tennessee State University. She’s the host of “Mind Your Mental” podcast, and has been featured on media outlets such as Forbes and Essence. Dr. Martin has a strong media presence where she advocates for better mental health awareness and resources within the Black community.

Lisa Savage

Lisa Savage is a licensed clinical social worker in Delaware. She is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Child Development and the Delaware Center for Counseling & Wellness. Her practices offer mental health services to children in the community along with their families. The Center for Child Development is one of the largest Black-owned clinical practices in the country and has partnered with over 90 Delaware schools.

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