Black therapists are in high demand after year of racial unrest and pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- COVID-19 and videos of Black Americans getting shot and killed by police have brought on a wave of anxiety, stress, and loss. Within the pandemic, a mental health crisis.

Jamal Jones is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has been treating mental health clients for nine years. Right before the pandemic hit, he launched Central Valley Christian Counsel, an online private practice.

"I just opened my caseload back up last Friday," said Jones. "Actually, I'm in the process of expanding into a group practice."

African Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but of the 41,000 psychiatrists in the country, only two percent are Black, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Jones has noticed more clients seeking out Black therapists and says his profession needs a lot more people who look like him to combat the long waitlists.

"Therapy is a very sacred relationship," Jones said. "When people are hurting, they want somebody that they can identify with, someone that they feel that they can trust. And there are times where culture plays a factor in that."

He says some of his clients are dealing with economic insecurities during the pandemic, generational trauma, and police killings of unarmed citizens.

"These are events that create stress and can create trauma, and a sense of desperation and helplessness," he said. "Even though we are resilient, we have our breaking point. Many people are reaching their breaking point and realizing that the best thing to do is to ask for help."

Jones listens to the pain of his clients for hours throughout the week.

When asked how he deals with pain from the same events, he says, "I have a broken heart, you know, to see what happened to George Floyd and Mr. Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and the list goes on and on. It can be really disheartening and discouraging to see the unhealthy relationship that the black community and particularly black men are having with law enforcement and vice versa."

He believes empathy is an essential tool to show others their feelings are valid.

"The more that we can practice empathy with one another. I think that helped lead to less anxiety, less risk of people harming themselves."

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255, or text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources and here for additional resources.
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