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Austin African-Americans Face Mental Health Care Barriers

Yesterday was Juneteenth, a holiday that celebrates progress and societal advancement of African-Americans in Texas. While there is plenty to celebrate, some advocates in Austin are still trying to promote mental health and overcome treatment barriers for African-Americans in Austin.

And, although African-Americans are just as likely to encounter mental health problems as the rest of the population, there are fewer options when it comes to seeking help.  

The Hogg Foundation at the University of Texas has promoted mental health and wellness among African-Americans since 2009, with a program called the Austin Area African-American Behavioral Health Network.

Program officer Vicky Coffee-Fletcher says reaching out to black communities has been a challenge, but that the initiative brings mental health professionals together in monthly meetings — educating therapists on issues faced by African-Americans to light.

Coffee-Fletcher says that, in African-American communities, barriers include a distrust of mental health professionals and a general inaccessibility to clinics among black communities. 

“As an African-American, it’s very challenging to work in this field,” Coffee-Fletcher says. “I think what makes [the initiative] so successful is that everyone can learn from each other.”

At meetings, mental health professionals join those with mental health problems and their family members to learn more about the issues facing these people, as well as offer insight into effective treatment options.

While the monthly meetings take a summer hiatus, Coffee-Fletcher says the group will meet again in August at their Lake Austin Boulevard location.

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