The African American Community Service Agency of San Jose works to connect people of color to mental health resources

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — This Black History Month, ABC7 is spotlighting the people and organizations working to build a better Bay Area. In South Bay, a group is working hard to fight mental health.

Although the subject has slowly become less taboo in general, the stigma surrounding it still exists, especially in communities of color.

RELATED: Asians, Latinxes and Blacks Struggle to Find Therapists Like Them in the Bay Area

“We have been ostracized in many ways, we are not welcome in many spaces where there is a dominant culture,” said Dr. Glenna Anderson, an African-American mental health therapist. “And so when you think about it like that, and that’s my only personal theory, you don’t necessarily want to do things that are going to ostracize us further.”

Dr. Glenna, as she is known, also says a lot of this may be related to what have become cultural norms.

“‘What happens in my house stays in my house’ and so there’s a certain level of privacy that people like to maintain and a certain pride that people have in not wanting to share, which we might consider, our dirty laundry with whom we would consider a stranger,” said Dr Glenna.

The Silicon Valley-based African American Community Service Agency is working to break the stigma.

“We’re letting people know that therapy, as Dr. Glenna would say, is a way of life. And it’s meant to be part of your lifestyle,” said Milan Balinton, the agency’s executive director.

TAKE ACTION: Get help for mental health issues

Balinton has worked with Dr. Glenna to help communities of color achieve this.

“Black people, brown people, people of color needed someone to talk to because of rising suicide rates. Just what happened during the pandemic,” he said, “So talking to Dr. Glenna who was also a San Jose State elder as well as (myself), I saw that she had the ability and the skills to reach people in a particular way, that which became our Monday meetings.”

These Monday appointments are free therapy-based wellness sessions open to everyone. They have been happening almost every two weeks since October.

“These are our 30-minute wellness information workshops on a variety of topics,” Dr. Glenna said. “Very practical topics, with practical information, practical steps, nothing too deep.”

Faces are not displayed in sessions and people can chat or email questions directly to Dr. Glenna.

RELATED: CA signs bills allowing students to access mental health education and support in schools

Slowly but surely, Dr. Glenna and Balinton say the stigma is diminishing.

To those who are considering therapy but feel unsure, Dr. Glenna says:

“If you’re thinking, ‘Maybe I should sit down and talk to someone,’ you should sit down and talk to someone.”

One thing that keeps many people from seeking therapy, according to Dr. Glenna and Balinton, is fear of cost, but there are options.

Dr. Glenna has a breakdown of help available on her website, which you can find here.

To learn more about the free 30-minute wellness sessions and the African American Community Services Agency, click here.

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