The effects of systemic racism and the continuous and oftentimes unprovoked incidents of violence that we’ve witnessed locally and across the country continue to take a serious toll on the mental health of our greatly diverse residents, especially the African American/Black community here in Sacramento. These recent events have compounded the stress, anger, fear and anxiety that many Black residents already feel on a daily basis.
Sacramento County and the “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project began a creative refresh process just over two years ago to update mental health and anti-stigma messaging and materials tailored for our project’s key audiences, knowing that perceptions and conversations around mental illness and stigma are constantly evolving. The project team has been coordinating extensive research among all of our audiences, including the African American/Black community. Through material and data review, participant surveys, key informant interviews and focus groups with local African American leaders and residents, we’ve gleaned invaluable insights regarding mental health and mental illness among African American/Black residents in Sacramento County. This research and its findings are helping to inform the development of highly customized, culturally authentic messaging and materials for this community, as well as the project’s other priority audiences.
With that, the County and project recognize that in addition to the traumatic impact of the Stephon Clark and Joseph Mann killings in Sacramento, the recent high-profile, senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other atrocities, and the videos of these incidents, are producing heightened anxiety and compounding the historical racial trauma already impacting the African American/Black community. This emotional fear and pain has been, and continues to be, deeply felt by African American/Black individuals, and it will have a lasting influence on their perceptions of mental health. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, causing additional harm to African American/Black communities.
While many of our local partners affirm that the research for our other audiences is complete and ready to launch at this time, it became clear to the County and project team that the African American/Black community materials needed to be reevaluated in light of recent events.
Over the next few months, the project will continue working with African American/Black leaders, stakeholders and residents in Sacramento County, listening to and learning from their experiences to ensure that project materials are reflective of the sentiments and needs of this essential community as it relates to mental health, mental illness and any barriers to healing, wellness and care.
Here is an illustration of repeating themes and words that emerged from conversations with Sacramento County residents, as well as from a comprehensive literature review: