Saleemah McNeil says her desire to provide free therapy to people of color is not only rooted in her experience as a Black woman in America, but also seeing the hurt, anger and pain of a community left feeling broken and hopeless.
McNeil is a reproductive psychotherapist and the founder of Oshun Family Center — a Jenkintown-based nonprofit focused on providing therapy services to women, children and families from communities of color.
She said between the coronavirus pandemic — which has disproportionately impacted Black Americans — and the systemic police brutality that’s resulted in the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in a short period of time, the African American community is facing a mental health crisis. “When you pile direct trauma with vicarious trauma, seeing the images on social media, seeing the injustices in the court system…it is just the hurt that I see in my community,” McNeil said.
According to researchers, racial trauma can result when someone experiences several instances of racism, whether in the workplace or through hate crimes, as well as racial profiling and microaggression. A 2019 study also showed that viral videos that visualize racial violence and are shown widely across media outlets have also had impacts on the mental health of people of color.
Seeing the devastation, McNeil said she realized she couldn’t sit back and watch any longer.
McNeil set a goal of raising $5,000 to provide mental health services for free to the Black community.
They’re taking donations through a PayPal link set up by McNeil and she said they have already exceeded their fundraising goal. However, she said they’ve also received a high abundance of inquiries of people dealing with trauma wanting services.
Teaming up with Valerie Braunstein from Philly Psychology — a Center City private practice — to combine forces, they’re increasing their fundraising goal to $15,000 to get resources to as many people as possible. McNeil hopes the funds can provide up to eight sessions for free to those who need help to start healing.
“Right now we are looking to diversify the team that we have and have more clinicians come on board and be able to compensate them in a way that does not make them feel slighted, as they are Black clinicians providing services for the Black community,” McNeil said.
McNeil said the eight sessions are sometimes enough for people dealing with direct acute trauma — when it’s happening in the current moment in reaction to things like current events. But for people with more complex trauma that may require more than eight sessions, McNeil said she and the other therapists will work with them on a sliding fee scale, or at a reduced rate.
She added that as white people are having more conversations about their power and privilege, and what they can do to help right now, McNeil suggests supporting and donating to Black-owned organizations and businesses.
“It’s just super important to band together, like we have been doing all week like I’ve never seen before, to make sure that you understand the importance of healing within the devastation that we have all faced throughout this time,” McNeil said. “Not only within the global pandemic, but from peaceful protesting to looting and rioting, what you see is an outward display of anger, frustration, brokenness, and, ultimately, on the journey to healing. So that would be most beneficial to help us along our way.”
Below is a list of therapists providing free resources to Philly’s Black community right now. See anyone missing? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
255 S. 17th St., Suite 1106, Philadelphia, PA
– Providing virtual teletherapy services by culturally competent clinicians. They’re providing up to five sessions 100% free.
Saleemah McNeil, Oshun Family Center
505 Old York Road, Jenkintown, PA 19046
525 South 4th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147
– Text 267-808-2649 for an appointment.
Nadia J. Awais
103 East Gate Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Nadia Awais is a licensed professional counselor and self-identifies as a non-Black person of color. She has over 20 years of clinical experience working with a variety of populations in the mental health field, including those dealing with addiction and trauma. Awais is offering free counseling and mental health services to any person of color who is on the front lines of participating in social justice reform and change.
“The stress from the trauma and exhaustion from the ongoing work of advocating for radical change can lead a person down a dark path where they are unable to practice the self-care they need,” Awais said.
She has limited slots available and is able to see five people at this time.
Black Men Heal is a Philly-area nonprofit that provides limited mental health services for free. The organization has donated over 600 free therapy sessions, through the help of roughly 50 volunteers.
Black Men Heal is still looking for volunteer clinicians of color. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can find more information here. It also accepts donations through Cash App and PayPal.
The Black Women’s Health Alliance works to improve health care outcomes and reduce health disparities for African Americans and other women of color through advocacy, education and support services. Their services include support groups for adult women, peer-mediation workshops and teen dating violence prevention programs.
Penn Masala — a South Asian a cappella group at the University of Pennsylvania — is currently fundraising to help support services at the Black Women’s Health Alliance and Black Men Heal. So far, they’ve raised more than $12,000.
1989 N. 63rd St., Suite 300, Philadelphia, PA 19151
Sebro runs a private practice with specializations in treating children, adolescents and adults. She provides individual, family and group counseling on issues ranging from anger management, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, family problems, job-related issues and college preparation.
Council for Relationships
4025 Chestnut St., First Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Council for Relationships is providing free mental health services to essential workers during COVID-19. Services are available to health care workers, first responders, corrections officers, grocery store clerks, transit workers and others at risk.
Fees are set based on income and no one is turned away due to financial limitations. Low fee sessions are intended to provide access to counseling for those who otherwise aren’t able to afford it. If there is a waitlist, verification of income may be required. More options can be found locally via Therapy for Black Girls and Therapy for Black Men — comprehensive databases that can help you find a Black therapist in your area.
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