by Lydia Blanco
Creating safe spaces for others is second nature for therapists and mental health professionals as they establish trust and build relationships with their clients. But finding a community for themselves to unwind is often an afterthought. That is why Deran Young, LCSW, founded Black Therapists Rock. In 2016, Young created a Facebook group as an opportunity to organize black therapists, community leaders, personal development experts, and clinical professionals toward action in decreasing the stigma and other barriers to mental health and emotional well-being.
As a therapist who grew up with adverse childhood experiences, Young is culturally informed and invested in serving people in underresourced communities.
“I grew up in the hood and my mother was mentally ill but I did not know that.” says Young. “What I knew was that she was on drugs. I was the oldest so that meant that I was always in charge. And I grew up taking care of everyone except myself—and that is very common amongst black women. We are taking care of, thinking, doing, problem solving, and saving everyone but ourselves,”
A lot of her work now and as a former therapist in the military has taught her the importance of not doing the work alone.
“I created the Facebook group and thought I’d be happy if I got 200 people. Three months in, we had 2,000 people. And by the end of 2016, we had 10,000 people. And by the end of the third year we had 20,000 people,” say Young.
Within the community, members can share their experiences, build relationships, and occasionally vent. With a community so unique and impactful, Young has been sought out by Facebook. In 2018, she was accepted for their Community Leadership Fellowship. As a fellow, her organization receives financial support and resources to promote their mission. Most recently, Young spoke about her work at Facebook’s Global Safety & Well-Being Summit where we met her and learned more about the work that she is doing.
“Through Facebook, we have a program called ‘Heal the Healer’ where we have 40 therapists at a training that is focused on social and emotional support,”
Black Therapists Rock has grown exponentially over the years, and Young says because it quickly became a healing space.
“We are making sure that we sustain ourselves because if we burn out (like I was) what good is that? A lot of us have our own issues we’re still dealing with and might not necessarily have the resources we need ourselves. The stigma is stronger for therapists because we’re ‘supposed to have it together’ and know how to deal with our own stuff, but, we’re human,” adds Young.
Keeping wellness at the forefront of mind for her community members and fellow black therapists, who are looking for a tribe of healers to join, Young offers the following advice for black therapists and mental health advocates during Mental Health Awareness Month:
- The first thing is to know that depression can happen to you. Most of us don’t think that we can be depressed. We say we don’t have time for that. So, make time to take care of yourself.
- Don’t follow the philosophy that it’s you against the world. You’re human and deserve care just like everyone else.
- Seek the care that you’re giving.
- Avoid Isolation. Don’t go at it alone. The same ways that trauma comes in through other people—we need to get it out with other people.
- Know what you stand for and why you do what you do. If you, like me, care about people that no one else cares about [working with].
- Find your people, connect, and get plugged in online and off. You cannot heal other people without someone supporting you.