Deran Young is the founder and CEO of Black Therapists Rock, an organization comprised of individuals and agencies committed to improving the social and psychological well-being of vulnerable communities. BTR’s efforts raise awareness of mental health issues.
Young earned her master’s degree in social work and a master’s in public administration, concentrating on leadership, diversity, and organizational culture, from the University of Texas. Her clinical training and experiences have primarily focused on PTSD, suicide prevention, child abuse and domestic violence among military members, their families, and veterans.
Here, Young, who has visited over 32 countries and conducted her final semester of graduate school establishing a high school counseling center in Ghana, West Africa, talks about Blacks and mental health.
Why does a mental health stigma exist in the African American community?
The Black culture is strongly centered on relationships. Our ancestors believed in living communally. This behavior is common in African countries today. The thought of seeking advice regarding life challenges from a stranger is inconsistent with what they are used to, relying on individuals who are familiar. Also, some may experience embarrassment or shame around being diagnosed with a mental illness. It is often seen as a personal defect or weakness in many communities. As a result of generational trauma, we have learned to cover our feelings with a false sense of strength, which totally disregards the value of vulnerability. Often, we become accustomed to ignoring our true feelings after years of being told, overtly or subtly, that it’s not good to “be in your feelings.”
Tell us about your organization and its function.
At BTR, we are a vital support to mental health professionals who serve vulnerable communities. We have an online community of over 15,000 members and have become an extremely visible movement in one year and four months since its launch. BTR’s community events encourage individuals to acknowledge and face the stigma of mental health treatment.
What are some of your organization’s successes?
BTR was recently acknowledged by the mayor of Baltimore for “helping to educate the public on mental illness and end the stigma that is often associated with it” and featured [Daren Young] in the Huffington Post as one of the “10 Black Female Therapists You Should Know.”
What is the most challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Although extremely rewarding, entrepreneurship and being a leader, in general, comes with great responsibility. They say “it’s lonely at the top.” I believe it is fairly easy to fall into this category when an individual is faced with the ongoing challenging of prioritizing, both professionally and personally.
Are there hotlines or special numbers that people can call when they find themselves in need of help?
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233
National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD
Where would you like to yourself in the next five years?
By 2020, we are projected to have more than 60 local chapters throughout the country. We have recently partnered with agencies such as Capella University and Brené Brown’s The Daring Way to provide more resources and opportunities to our members. We hope to continue to develop successful collaborations with individuals, causes and organizations that share similar vision and mission. We will be publishing several books and documentaries over the next few years. We plan to leverage these as tools to increase mental health awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness. As the founder of Black Therapists Rock, I plan to continue building our exposure through speaking engagements and events worldwide.