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How Professionals Can Work to Provide Health, Emotional, and Recovery Support to Communities of Color

People of color face many challenges, from substance abuse to health concerns and trouble accessing mental health resources. Though employment programs, mental health clinics, and free rehab centers have been put in place to offer assistance, those in communities of color dealing with these issues still lack proper care and recognition.

Professionals working with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) may sometimes be lost as to how they can help their patients, clients, and community members. There are several ways to provide health, emotional, and recovery support to people of color. Below we’ll explore some practices and how to apply them.

What Challenges Do People of Color Face Today?

For years, people of color have fought for equality in America. From taking a stance against unflattering portrayals in the media to reversing laws that kept systematic racism alive and starting to address mental health needs, there is much to applaud.

However, many problems remain to be addressed, such as race-based trauma, obesity, and substance abuse in people of color. Let’s take a closer look at some of these issues.

Race-Based Trauma

With the rise of awareness about the issues BIPOC face comes backlash from hate groups. These groups sometimes act violently against people of color, leading to race-based trauma.

Race-based stress can come from:

  • hate speech and threats
  • microaggressions
  • harassment from law enforcement or other community members
  • unfair workplace treatment
  • medical invalidation
  • underrepresentation and misrepresentation in media
  • abandonment by government and local authorities
  • race-identity confusion (for people of mixed races)

Every person internalizes trauma in different ways. Some act out, while others bottle up incidents and ignore them.

Some signs and symptoms of race-based trauma are:

  • anger
  • rage
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • physical manifestations, such as headaches, difficulty sleeping, and weight gain or loss
  • nightmares
  • avoidance
  • humiliation
  • constantly looking for threats


There are significant racial and ethnic disparities in adult obesity in the United States. Between 2015 and 2017, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention did intensive research on the prevalence of obesity in certain communities of color.

Their findings show that non-Hispanic black adults are at the most risk of becoming obese (38.4%), followed by Hispanic adults (32.6%).

The reasons for this can be:

  • increased access to lower-quality food
  • higher rates of unemployment
  • less access to places devoted to physical activity
  • food insecurity.
  • targeting by companies selling unhealthy food products

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a problem that affects all Americans, but unfortunately, it’s a persistent issue with BIPOC. Between 2015 and 2019, illicit drug use by people of color 12 years or older was relatively high.

People of two or more races (28.5%) and Native American people (25.9%) had the highest rates of illicit drug use, followed by African Americans (20.8%).

Internalizing race-based trauma and not having access to mental health resources are some reasons for the high rate of substance use in BIPOC.

What Can Professionals Do?

If you are a professional working in a community of color, these problems may seem too monumental to solve. But with the right action steps, you can make an impact.

If you lead a group of children in any capacity, try to fit in 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity each day. Understanding the connection between brain and body is pivotal to a better overall attitude and physical health.

Physical activity can be:

  • playing a group sport such as basketball or football
  • game of tag
  • long walks or hikes
  • simple calisthenics
  • going to a playground
  • creating games together, which can also stimulate brain activity
  • yoga

Many of these can be applied in the workplace, job sites, and other locations.

For the improved mental health of those dealing with race-based trauma, create safe spaces for your interactions and let them know you’re open to hearing their concerns in private. You can also share ways to improve mental health at home, such as practicing mindfulness or keeping a diary.

Substance use disorders in communities of color can be addressed through early education on the risks of substance use. The sooner young people know about these risks, the less likely they may be to experiment with drugs.

For those in active abuse, treating addiction or mental health disorders professionally with medical or behavioral health care is usually the best option. Treatment programs such as detoxification, inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment, and 12-step meetings can help a person of color maintain sobriety and learn to live drug-free.

Some rehab centers and 12-step meetings focus on specific demographics, such as people of color. Use this treatment tracker or contact a Resource Specialist from rtor.org to find local resources for support.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

Contact a Resource Specialist

About the Author: Ben Shani is a content specialist with Ark Behavioral Health, specializing in mental health and substance abuse issues.

July is BIPOC Mental Health Month

Observed each July and formerly recognized as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, BIPOC Mental Health Month highlights the unique mental health challenges and needs of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC). Please join us in recognizing the struggles of BIPOC and bringing awareness to the need for adequate, accessible, culturally relevant mental health treatment, care, and services.

www.rtor.org and its sponsor Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice and to making mental health services available to all.

Photo by Chris Fuller on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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