'Bear Our Pain': The Plea For More Black Mental Health Workers

Unrest over social injustice spotlights the acute need for, and the high historical barriers to, mental health treatment for Black people facing layers of emotional pain.
Kai Koerber, a rising sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, is a survivor of the 2018 mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Since then, he says, he's made promoting a mental health curriculum in high schools and colleges a personal priority. Source: Brittany Hosea-Small

Two decades of life experience made a mental-health activist of Kai Koerber. When he was 16 and a student at a Parkland, Fla., high school, a gunman killed 17 people, including one his friends.

"I really did suffer a domestic terrorist attack, and that's not something that happens to you every day," Koerber says. But as a young Black man growing up in the South, Koerber had already faced threats of racial and police violence routinely, and those experiences, too,his relationship with the world. He's coped with that stress, he says, through a lifelong practice of meditation. And after the school massacre, Koerber also sought emotional support from a therapist with a deep empathy for his personal traumas. "Finding a Black therapist really saved me some time, and there was more connection, in terms of the kinds of struggles that I might feel or the the kinds of ways I might think about certain scenarios," Koerber says. Now a rising sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, Koerber says having access to good mental health care is critical to both preventing and dealing with the after-effects of violence.

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