U.S. News


Nonprofit Organization Focuses On Black Women's Mental Health

Newsy spoke to the founder of Black Girls Smile, a nonprofit organization that provides mental health support for young Black women.
Posted at 7:17 AM, Feb 19, 2021

Lauren Carson: "I think within the African American community, we have to start to break down the stigma around asking for help, being open about our feelings and our emotions and the things that we experience too often." 

Meet Lauren Carson. She's the executive director and founder of Black Girls Smile — a nonprofit organization that provides mental health support, education and resources for young Black women.

Carson: "Young Black women are quickly seen as adults, even when they are still children or they're still tweens or teenagers. … With adultification, you're seeing stricter punishments in the school system for disciplinary issues — acting out in many instances, whether it's teachers or providers — they're not digging deep enough to find out what are some of the things these young women may be experiencing, whether it's at home, with their peers or even just the representation that we see on media. These things impact everyone's mental health — but especially a demographic that too often doesn't see good depictions of themselves, is often held to higher standards than peers when it comes to dress code, when it comes to actions in the school or even academic performance."

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 American adults experiences mental illness each year. Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24. 

But when it comes to treatment, Black communities are one of the least likely to seek help. And this is where Black Girls Smile helps provide support. 

Carson: "For us to show up as our best selves, we have to prioritize our mental health. And at times that may mean asking for help from a mental health professional." 

For many, their mental health struggles have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted people of color. Carson said the pandemic — as well as the re-ignited movement for racial equity sparked by the death of George Floyd — has shifted the way Black communities talk about mental health. 

Carson: "I definitely started to see more of a focus of breaking down what we call generational trauma, the poor coping skills, the unhealthy coping skills that we are kind of — are passed down or inherited from our caregivers or our parents that they then got from their parents and their caregivers and the aversion to not talking about emotions and feelings and experiences. ... At times we're OK with just getting by. And I think that people are starting to realize that that's not what life's about. It's — it's not just about making it. It's about living a full and authentic life." 

Contains footage from CNN.