B.A.S.E Inc. teamed up with local counselors to host a town hall about mental health in the African American community.

The workforce development nonprofit hosted a discussion in Lancaster called “Breaking the Silence in the Black Community About Mental Health.”

 Dr. Latinia Shell is the counselor who moderated the event.

“The two go hand and hand,” Shell said about mental health and race. “If you’re experiencing racism, if you’re the subject of racism, that’s going to affect you.” 

“There’s a stigma with drugs and alcohol, mental health nationwide, but in particular, it impacts the African American community much more severely,” said Nelson Polite Jr., who is a counselor. 

The organization’s president Cobbie Burens says B.A.S.E. often helps people who are under a lot of stress from living in poverty. He says education about mental health is key. 

“Quality of life is a challenge, and so people need to know how to cope with these circumstances when they are confronted,” said Burens.

Mental health specialists were at Friday’s town hall to answer questions.

Polite says developing a support system is vital.

“There’s usually a system of denial and also, there’s a lot of shame that’s involved with breaking the silence,” said Polite.”I would suggest that they reach out to a family member, a community member, a professional to get the help that they need.”

Dr. Shell says her research has showed that racial identity, racial stress and psychological distress are connected. 

“Mental health and addictions affect everyone,” said Shell. “There’s a lot of support. There’s a lot of help, and people do and can get better.”

B.A.S.E. holds free community events each month. 

Click here for a link to mental health resources.