Mental Health Spotlight Series: Prioritizing Mental Health Support in Black Communities, Feature Story 2

Throughout Black History Month, we’re sharing stories from Providence caregivers who specialize in behavioral health care. We are also featuring student mental health advocates who are members of Work2BeWell’s National Student Advisory Council.

In our second feature, we are sharing a Q&A with Tendai Masiriri, PhD, LICSW, director of Behavioral Health for Providence South Puget Sound. In this role, he oversees outpatient behavioral health clinics for adults and youth and community-based programs that serve diverse populations. 

We recently spoke with Dr. Masiriri about the unique challenges Black individuals face when it comes to mental health and his hopes for the future of behavioral health care and support.

What led you to pursue a career in behavioral health care?  
An encounter that I had while counseling a teen nearly two decades ago is forever etched in my memory. I was working as a pastor at physical health clinic and a teen dealing with substance use was referred to me for counseling.  

I empathized with them, and the individual thanked me for my counsel, but I was left wondering what I really did to help. This experience served as a catalyst for me to pursue my master’s degree with a concentration in clinical behavioral health. 
What unique challenges do Black individuals face when it comes to mental health? 
One of the main challenges is the pathologizing (characterizing as medically or psychologically abnormal) mental health conditions.  

It’s important to make sure that we normalize our conversations about mental health and talk about mental health conditions like we talk about physical health, e.g., diabetes or hypertension and any other illness that affects individuals. Everyone has mental health.  

I believe that there is also a lot of labeling that goes around and that’s what we’re trying to avoid all costs. We treat the whole human being, without placing a label on a person based on a disease state. 

What are your hopes for the future of mental health care and support? 
Integration is key – creating mainstream pathways for mental health care to be integrated into primary care practices will have a positive effect on Black communities, and also the whole population at large. This integration is particularly significant for Black communities, as they may be less inclined to seek mental health care and support due to the associated stigma. When behavioral health services are integrated into primary care, individuals can receive care and support in a familiar setting, and several research studies show that utilization is higher when these services are integrated.  

View and share resources that support mental health and well-being 
Providence’s Well Being Trust recently updated its guide that includes resources that support mental health and well-being in Black communities.  

Explore this curated collection of articles, guides, podcasts, and other resources – Prioritizing Black Mental Health: A guide to resources and support – Well Being Trust 

Read more feature stories in the Mental Health Spotlight Series: Prioritizing Mental Health Support in Black Communities 

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 

The information on this website is not intended to be medical advice. Medical advice can only be provided by your personal health care provider.