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  • N-Touch Strategies

An Advocate for Equitable Care in Mental Health

Updated: Aug 7, 2023


Meet Raven Gibbs, a Psychotherapist, who is among the 16% (4.8 million) of Black and African American people who reported having a mental illness. African Americans account for roughly 13% of the US population and the prevalence of mental illness among them is similar to other groups, however, the disparities in diagnosis, access to care, utilization of services, and overall health among African American communities, are staggering.


Other contributing factors that play a role in the disparities experienced among African Americans living with mental illness include socioeconomic status, overall health status, and other social and cultural factors:

While there have been improvements in efforts made to address the growing challenges related to mental health and illness among African American communities, there remains significant barriers to access and utilization of care, treatment, and other supportive services aimed at early and proper diagnosis as well as better management of symptoms related to mental illness.


Raven shared her journey to equitable, culturally competent care, with us and is determined to change outcomes for African American communities, beginning with her own family. Here’s what she shared:



When I was first diagnosed...

I was first diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder at the age of 14 and then bipolar disorder at the age of 29 (2020). For a long time though, I dealt with symptoms of mania but didn’t address them. Soon after college, I went into a depressive episode. There was no trigger that I can recall. I felt that I didn’t have a purpose. I saw friends doing great things and didn’t see a reason for me to be here [in this world]. I contemplated suicide and dealt with daily ideation. I tried to overdose but it didn’t work. This was my first bout with real manic symptoms. I kept backing out of therapy because I wasn’t ready to address my symptoms. I was scared and worried about what others would think. I had what many consider a perfect life: parents who loved me, loving siblings, a college degree, and my dance career. In the Black community the stigma is so strong. I just didn’t want to deal with the stigma of being judged and placed in a box. I felt like I would be rendered unfit if I got diagnosed. During my first hospitalization, I learned of my mom’s and grandma’s battle with depression. You’ll be told you can pray it away. That faith without works is dead. This is why I think my grandma didn’t tell me. With my mom, she didn’t share because as a mom, she felt she failed me somehow, like “she did it to me.” There’s a shame in the Black community when it comes to accepting and sharing a diagnosis. When I first told my uncle, he said, “Everybody in our family is a little crazy.” His response was jarring and for a while, we did not speak. Eventually, I told him I wanted to break the cycle and the stigma in our family and needed his support. We’ve since reconciled. Now I’m on a mission to help the Black community understand that the rate of serious mental illness diagnosis is greater than breast cancer. If it’s unaddressed we’re harming ourselves.


My symptoms were...

My symptoms evolved over time. Initially, I was sad, not wanting to get out of bed. I was demonstrating high-functioning productivity on very little sleep. I went days without sleeping but got a lot done. I would stay up and reorganize my room in the middle of the night. I was displaying manic behavior such as spending with a disregard for my budget and would give in to risky behavior like skydiving.



My experience with the doctor who diagnosed me...

My first experience with the first two physicians was horrible. I thought maybe I don’t want to get help. I was in crisis and began ideating hurting myself. During COVID, my first physician dismissed me. My hair began falling out due to the medication I was taking, and my doctor

simply wanted to prescribe another drug. It took me a year to get a physician that I can call, one who “sees" me. She prescribed a different drug, which I began taking in 2016 and I’m now feeling I have a care network that included my physician, psychiatrist, and a strong support system. But it took five years. The care I’m receiving now is outstanding. We worked together to come up with a plan when I’m having a manic episode. They taught me to speak up and advocate for myself and not to sit in silence. My care plan includes my mom, big brother, and aunt. They listen, which is extremely important because all you want sometimes is simply to be heard. I wish I recognized earlier that I could rely on my family vs. isolating (another symptom). I feel safe now with the friendship circle and support system that I have. I no longer have to mask things and be trapped in my own mind.


The treatment my doctor prescribed...

In addition to prescription, I engage in therapy and can pull from several care strategies and healthy distractions to self-soothe, such as working out or walking outside to see the beauty in nature. These help with the mental and emotional management.


The information my doctor provided about my diagnosis...

Initially, I wasn't given much information. I did not care for that doctor, honestly. Luckily for me, I had friends and family that helped me to both do research on the diagnosis and to find a doctor that delivered quality care to suit my individual needs. My current doctor is amazing at answering the questions that come up for me. She provides information about my diagnosis and has given a level of empathy that I had not seen with previous providers. The information given to me is easy to understand and that goes a long way in better understanding myself and my diagnosis.


I now have enough information from my doctor to make an informed decision about my care plan...

Initially, I did not. I had to find most of that information on my own or rely on my support system to help me discover more information. Now, I feel unstoppable. My current doctor helped me find a therapist that is supportive of my goals and has encouraged me to create a care plan that is tailored to my needs.


My current doctor asked me about my support system...

The first two doctors did not. My current doctor did. When creating my care plan, that was the first thing that was discussed. We went over the people included in my support system, their proximity to me in case of emergency, and a complete genogram that might help me to find hidden supports as needed during this process.


My biggest concern about my diagnosis...

My biggest concern about my diagnosis has always been the question of "what if I go into crisis alone?". It is an incredibly scary thought for me. I feel strong and knowledgeable about what to do, but we never know how we're going to respond in the face of an emergency. Thankfully, I feel like I am in a better position to recognize my symptoms and I have people in my life that have made sure to practice greater awareness as well, so the fear is lessened.



What gives me hope...

As a psychotherapist, being able to see other Black girls who look like me break their trauma. It inspires me when my clients take the bold step in taking charge of their lives at an early age to break their trauma and heal. I watched my grandma and mom bury their trauma. I knew I wanted to create change and start conversations that weren’t being had so I went into the mental health field. I felt called to be in the mental health therapy space. Conventional talk therapy doesn’t make room for Black communities. So, I wanted to come up with culturally competent unconventional therapy to help Black communities heal.


Like Raven, N-Touch Strategies is committed to changing the mental illness statistics for Black communities. That’s why earlier this year we began partnering with [Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Syneos Health, and local mental health services organizations] to bring awareness to this issue and provide resources to help address the grim mental health statistics facing Black communities. Through this partnership, our team of practitioners—some with lived experiences as a patients or caregivers—provide strategic counsel and develop culturally relevant programs and content that engage communities and change outcomes.


To find out how N-Touch Strategies can help your organization, call 855-686-8247 or email us at: consulting@ntouchstrategies.com.


Mental Health Resources

  • TherapyforBlackGirls.com

  • To connect individuals to trained crisis counselors to address immediate needs and connect to ongoing care: 988

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)

  • Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-713-228-1565)

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