By John Coleman –
Linda Hart, Founder & President of the African American Mental Health Coalition recently held the Circle of Unity: Bringing Awareness & Breaking Mental Health Stigmas in Our Communities Symposium in recognition of Black History Month & African American Mental Health Week. Many San Bernardino westside residents have known of and benefited from Hart's active leadership and advocacy on their behalf. Some even recall that in 1973, Hart was chosen by the San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation as Miss Black San Bernardino.
Few in the community were aware that many families suffer in silence with a lack of information but burdened by a sense of stigma or guilt associated with mental illness.
In the opening remarks, Hart spoke of the impact within her family when neither the ill person nor the family fully understood what was happening or what to do about it. Little help was available. Trust in the mental health system was low. Many believed that the system did not relate well to the special needs of Black people.
Organizing the African American Mental Health Coalition was Hart's passion. The coalition currently is an active partner with the County Dept. of Behavioral Health and has co-sponsored a training session on Culturally Competent Counseling headlined by Professor Joe White, Dean of Black Psychology.
Members of the coalition serve on the SB County Mental Health Advisory Council.
Speakers who addressed the topic of the symposium included: Pastor Kenneth Baker, Allen Chapel AME Church, San Bernardino; CaSonya Thomas, Assistant Director, SB Dept of Behavioral Health; Michael Townsend, Staff member for Congressman Joe Baca; Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter; E.M. Abdulmumin, PhD; Gloria Morrow, PhD.; and Terry Boykins.
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