KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mental illness could impact your family and friends, and you may not even know.
For many people, mental illness is battle fought in the shadows.
But even as awareness increases nationwide, barriers remain for people in the Black community.
Statistics show that 25% of Black people seek mental health help compared to 40% of white people.
“Me being transparent, is okay,” Tre Hill with the 21 Xperiment said.
Just like the embroidery needle, in life, Hill knows all too well about the ups and downs.
“As far as someone with a mental health condition, I have one and I’m okay saying it,” he said.
Transparency for Hill is on social media, where he shares truths about mental health, access, statistics and what he’s been through.
Hill shares about his sports injuries, deaths in the family and past traumas on social media, and he hopes his life experiences now on display will help break a deeply rooted problem.
“In the Black community and mine, in particular, it was something looked at as if it wasn’t real,” Hill said. “Depression was looked at as if you’re strong enough, you can get past it.”
But now, he’s changing the narrative.
“I need it to not be a weakness,” Hill said. “I think a lot of people need it to not be a weakness so people can accept it and get better.”
He’s starting with 21 Xperiment hats, exposing an issue that’s often fought in silence and stitching together a conversation.
“Scientifically it takes 21 days to make or break a habit,” Hill said. “If we can find a way to raise awareness and show people how important it is and how much of a disconnect between the Black culture and that help, I believe we can affect some change.”
But, awareness isn’t the only key.
“The skills that a person needs are already there, it’s just a matter of having a safe container to figure it out, for me doing this work, it’s a way of paying it forward,” Burt Rogers, a licensed professional counselor, said.
Rogers said there can be many barriers.
“Sometimes it can be the cost, sometimes it can be the history of how mental health practitioners have seen the African American community as a whole,” Rogers said.
Rogers said repairing the issues starts with cultural competency.
“I’m from the 30s areas of Kansas City, there are a lot of details of the trauma history that wouldn’t normally take place in the suburbs,” Rogers said. “The idea of how someone responds to gunshots or the fact that there are gunshots. As a clinician, it behooves me to understand that for my clients, when they talk about a shooting that happened last week, it might be helpful to ask which one, rather than oh my goodness there was a shooting, no there’s multiple. Pervasive vs. shock trauma.”
Rogers said the focus needs to stay on resilience and validation.
“The first questions I always ask is, ‘How do you survive all of this? How did you get there?’ I start with a strength-based perspective to understand there is resilience among your family friends on how you get here,” Rogers said. “The frustrating aspect is the infrastructure hasn’t changed.”
Joseph Palm, the Chief at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service’s office of Minority Health, said that mental health awareness is more important than ever.
”There is more of a need for mental health than ever,” Palm said. “We have to get over the stigma, the only way you’re going to get over the stigma of mental health in the Black community is to do more outreach and have people understand that mental health is just as important as clinical help.”
Palm admits there are gaps when it comes to access to mental health resources in the Black community. He has requested more state and local partnerships, first responder education on handling traumas and more funding.
“It’s a monumental task, and it’s going to take all of us,” Palm said.
Both Palm and Hill know that by gathering the threads of your life, health comes together with one stitch at a time.
“I want to shed light on it being okay to not be okay, a lot of people deal with it, a lot of people know they aren’t dealing with it or that other people can help with that,” Hill said.
Listed below are some resources in the Kansas City area: