We Need Women Like Michelle Obama To Speak About Black Mental Health More Than Ever

The deterioration of mental health in the Black community prompted Agnes Mwakatuma and Annie Nash to found Black Minds Matter in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. They tell Grazia why this issue can can no longer be ignored

Michelle Obama

by Rebecca Holman |
Published on

Michelle Obama has spoken out about feeling ‘low-grade depression’ this year. Interviewing US journalist Michele Norris in the second episode of her eponymous podcast, she said, ‘I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression.’

‘Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.’

For Agnes Mwakatuma and Annie Nash, co-founders of Black Minds Matter, a burgeoning charity set up to allow as many Black people in the UK to get specialised mental health support, Michelle Obama’s comments come at an important time. ‘It is clear more than ever that Black people must attend to their mental wellbeing’ they tell Grazia. ‘Women such as Michelle Obama speaking out reiterates and strengthens this idea and supports the betterment of the Black communities overall health.’

READ MORE: Black Lives Matter Protests In Pictures

They add that Michelle Obama’s comments echo the feelings of many Black women right now. ’It is clear that the unjust killings of Black people such as George Floyd has left a lot of Black women feeling outraged and sad, this pandemic of racism that we are currently living in has caused many of our past traumas to resurface.’

READ MORE: Anti-racism charities to support

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Charities To Support - Grazia

Charities To Support - Grazia1 of 23

Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds aged 13 to 30 to inspire and enable them to succeed in the career of their choice

Peace and Healing for Darnella Fund2 of 23

Peace and Healing for Darnella Fund

Darnella Frazier, the brave young woman who filmed the murder of George Floyd, deserves peace and healing. In addition to the trauma of watching a black man be murdered by police, she has had to deal with trolls, bullies and ignorant people harassing her online. This fund is to support the healing and the restoration of hope for Darnella Frazier —whatever that means to her.

Justice for Jacob Blake Fund3 of 23

Justice for Jacob Blake Fund

Set up by Blake's mother, this fund will cover his medical expenses, mental and grief counseling for his family and to assist them in the days to come, as they continue to seek justice for Jacob. A portion of these proceeds will also be used to benefit his six children.

Milwaukee Freedom Fund4 of 23

Milwaukee Freedom Fund

MFF was started by Black and Brown Milwaukee organizers to support residents' right to protest for justice. Donations help support their work helping protesters and community mutual aid and start a locally controlled and operated Milwaukee Bail Out Fund that is part of the National Bail Out Network. Through this work they will build on ongoing bail abolition efforts, support immigration efforts, work towards Black and Brown Liberation and support Black and Brown young people as they build a new world.

George Floyd Memorial Fund5 of 23

George Floyd Memorial Fund

This fund covers his funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling for the family, lodging and travel for all court proceedings and to assist the family in the days to come as they continue to seek justice for George. A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund.

Minnesota Freedom Fund6 of 23

Minnesota Freedom Fund

The MFF is working with the US National Lawyers Guild and Legal Rights Center to help bails that are set for protestors.

Charities To Support - Grazia7 of 23

Prison Reform Trust

Prison Reform Trust works to make the prison system in the UK just, humane and effective.

Charities To Support - Grazia8 of 23

Joint Council For The Welfare Of Immigrants

The JCWI aims to create a world in which immigration law and policy are based on sound evidence, promote the rule of law and are underpinned by respect for human rights and human dignity

Charities To Support - Grazia9 of 23

Access UK

Helps reduce BME youth unemployment, provide employment and training solutions for youth offenders and implement anti-gang initiatives in the community.

Charities To Support - Grazia10 of 23

Charity So White

Tackles institutional racism in the charity sector.

Charities To Support - Grazia11 of 23

Black Thrive

Black Thrive works to reduce the inequality and injustices experienced by Black people in mental health services.

Charities To Support - Grazia12 of 23

The Ubele Initiative

Supports the African diaspora community.

Charities To Support - Grazia13 of 23

Women In Prison

Supports women affected by the criminal justice system and campaigns to end the harm of prison to women, their families and our communities.

Charities To Support - Grazia14 of 23

Race On The Agenda (ROTA)

Race On The Agenda (ROTA) is a social policy research organisation focusing on issues that impact BAME communities.

Charities To Support - Grazia15 of 23

Show Racism The Red Card

Provides educational workshops, training sessions, multimedia packages, and a whole host of other resources, all with the purpose of tackling racism in society.

Charities To Support - Grazia16 of 23

The Equality Trust

Works to improve the quality of life in the UK by reducing economic and social inequality.

Charities To Support - Grazia17 of 23

Stop Hate UK

A service for victims of racial harassment aiming to end hate crimes in the UK.

Charities To Support - Grazia18 of 23

Runnymede

Generates intelligence to challenge race inequality in Britain through research, network building, leading debate, and policy engagement.

National Bail Out19 of 23

National Bail Out

This US charity is a Black-led and Black-centered collective of abolitionist organizers, lawyers and activists building a community-based movement to support our folks and end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.

Charities To Support - Grazia20 of 23

Black Lives Matter

This US organisation (for which there is a UK movement here) fights to end state-sanctioned violence, liberate Black people, and end white supremacy forever.

Charities To Support - Grazia21 of 23

BEAM

BEAM is a US training, movement building and grant making organization dedicated to the healing, wellness and liberation of Black and marginalized communities.

Charities To Support - Grazia22 of 23

Ahmaud Arbery Memorial Fund

Ahmaud Arbery was chased and gunned down by Travis McMichael, son of retired Brunswick investigator Greg McMichael, under the father's and son's pretenses of witnessing a burglary in Satilla Shores of Glynn County. There is no evidence of the alleged burglary.

Charities To Support - Grazia23 of 23

Belly Mujinga Memorial Fund

For the memorial of Belly Mujinga, the railway worker who was spat at before she died of Covid-19.

Black Minds Matter was set up by Agnes and Annie - who met at university - in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Agnes, who formerly worked in the charity sector, was driven to act both as a result of her own experiences as a Black woman and after witnessing the deterioration in mental health of the Black community around her. Breaking down the stigma around mental health is, she explains, a key aim. ‘We aim to work hard to normalise therapy within our community. We want to break the stigma around mental health in the Black community and make quality mental health services accessible to as many Black people in the UK as possible.’

READ MORE: We Need More Black History In The School Curriculum

And of course, an open conversation around this topic led by one of the most famous Black women in the world can only aid this. ’Having prominent Black women be open about their experiences aids in breaking down the stereotype of the ‘strong Black woman’ and humanises a group that has been historically dehumanised.’

With the NHS already struggling to keep up with the changing demands of the Coronavirus pandemic, Agnes and Annie decided to take matters into their own hands. ‘We also understand that the NHS is currently in crisis and therapy is not always readily available,’ Agnes explains. ‘Our aim is to link as many Black individuals and families in the UK with certified Black practitioners for free sessions as soon as possible.’

From improved funding into research around Black mental health, to work supporting up and coming Black therapists through access to coaching, workshops and training, Annie and Agnes aim to have a website that can connect Black individuals with certified Black therapists for up to 12 weeks’ worth of free sessions. They plan to feature therapists’ profiles on the site, allowing people to pick the therapist they would like to work with and then book an online assessment there and then, making the process as simple as possible.

The pair met their fund’s original target of £50,000 and to date have raised almost £500,000. ‘It has been both inspiring and emotional at times, Agnes tells us. ‘BMMUK’s achievements under 6 weeks has proven that long term impactful change is attainable when we all truly come together with a clear purpose.’

Click here for more information on Black Minds Matter, and to here to donate.

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