The Importance of Black Representation in the Mental Health Field

We understand the significance of amplifying Black voices in the mental health field, which is why we are handing over the microphone to three remarkable members of our Help in the Home team. These team members will shed light on their personal reasons for choosing a career in the mental health industry. We are incredibly grateful to have them as part of our team!

After more than a decade in business, we have come to realize the numerous ways in which our mental health care system has failed people of color. This month, we have initiated a team discussion to gain a deeper understanding of our staff’s experiences, motivations, and the impact they aspire to create for their clients and community through their careers. They will also bravely share their own encounters related to the topic of mental health. Without further delay, allow us to introduce you to Caitlin, Kaleesha, and Terence.

Meet Caitlin, Kaleesha and Terence

Caitlin Wheeler, LBSW, Care Coordinator

Caitlin Wheeler, LBSW, Care Coordinator:
Caitlin earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. While earning her undergraduate degree, Caitlin completed her internship at Help in the Home and was hired as the full-time Assistant SLC Supervisor upon completing her internship.

Most recently, Caitlin was promoted to Care Coordinator.  She shares that she appreciates the sense of community that exists within our team  as well as the support and hands on mentorship when situations arise. We love the fresh and new perspective Caitlin brings  to our clients and community along with her upbeat attitude!

In her spare time, Caitlin enjoys reading, taking long hikes with her dog – who is the center of her world!

Kaleesha Redparth, MSW, Care Coordinator

Kaleesha graduated from the University of Baltimore County with her bachelor’s degree in Social Work in 2016. In 2019 she graduated with her master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California, in addition to completing supplemental training in bereavement and mental health.

Kaleesha comes to us with an extensive background working in the mental health field. She has served multiple agencies in multiple roles including housing specialist, specialized case manager, and residential counselor. What she values the most about working at Help in the Home is the interaction with the clients. Kaleesha brings a unique perspective to our team with her previous experience as well as her personal experiences facing adversity.

In her free time, Kaleesha enjoys hanging out with her friends and family, especially her toddler son. She also loves swimming and watching all types of movies. She’s a lover of most genres of music but her favorite type of music is reggae.

Terence Anderson, Supported Living Community Assistant Program Manager

With over 2 years of prior experience providing support to the mental health community and those with substance abuse disorders, Terence is a valuable member of the Help in the Home team.  He provides structured face-to-face and/or tele-health sessions with clients weekly based on their treatment plan.  Terence also assists clinical managers by updating treatment plans based on changing goals and current diagnosis(es).

Terence has participated in many community outreach events and continues to increase his knowledge through mental health training courses. His favorite part of working with Help in the Home is interacting with and supporting our clients.  He loves being part of the SLC staff since they work as a team to accomplish goals together.

You will catch Terence watching football with his family on the weekends as he cheers on his favorite team- the Philadelphia Eagles!


Q: What is your first memory as it relates to mental health? Was it a negative or positive experience?

Caitlin: “Growing up, I was incredibly fortunate to have a remarkably positive first encounter with mental health. In my household, we openly discussed this important topic without any hesitation. Mental illness has a profound presence in my family, and I am grateful for the privilege of being able to openly acknowledge it without shame or taboo. I owe a heartfelt thank you to my mom and dad for fostering such an accepting environment.”

Kaleesha: “The earliest memory I have regarding mental health revolves around the realization that my younger brother was undergoing therapy for a suspected depression diagnosis. Growing up, my siblings and I were exposed to a toxic environment filled with verbal and physical abuse. It seemed to have a profound impact on my brother from a tender age. Despite my mother’s efforts to keep it hidden, his regular absences eventually came to light. I wouldn’t classify the experience as either positive or negative; it simply opened my eyes and provided valuable insight, fueling my curiosity further.”

Terence: “Looking back, I’ve come to the realization that mental health has been an enduring concern in the community where I was raised. People would frequently resort to terms like ‘crazy’, ‘he or she is special’, or ‘something is wrong with him or her’ to label those who were likely grappling with mental health difficulties.”

Q: Why did you choose the mental health field as a career?

Caitlin: “From the moment I stepped foot in college, my goal was to become a secondary education teacher. Little did I know that my path would take an unexpected turn during my student teaching semester. It was there that I encountered a student who faced constant emotional challenges, always seeking guidance from the counselor or principal. This encounter sparked a profound change within me, shifting my focus from teaching to delving into the root causes of this student’s struggles. It became crystal clear that my true calling was to support individuals on a more personal level, addressing their unique needs and overcoming their challenges. That’s why I made the decision to pursue a career in the mental health field, where I could wholeheartedly dedicate myself to helping individuals navigate their emotional and psychological well-being.”

Kaleesha: “To be completely honest, during my time in college, I explored every possible career path except for this one. I received discouragement from all directions when it came to pursuing this field. People warned me about low pay, long hours, and the risk of burning out. Despite trying out various jobs as an adult, I never felt truly satisfied. There was always a magnetic pull towards the mental health field. I’ve witnessed young, single African American mothers in my own family struggle to navigate this field without any support or guidance. My goal is to utilize my experience and knowledge to make a difference within the African American community and help dispel the stigmas surrounding mental health services.”

Terence: “After devoting more than two decades to the corporate world, I made a life-changing decision to transition into the mental health field. I embarked on a remarkable journey, actively engaging in community outreach with a primary focus on making a positive impact in underserved areas. By directly interacting with individuals facing a wide range of challenges, such as violence, homelessness, and basic needs, I gained invaluable insights and experiences that truly opened my eyes.

Through my volunteer work, I delved deeper into the prevalent issues plaguing these communities. I gained a profound understanding of the complexities surrounding depression, anxiety, and grief, which are often intensified by the loss of loved ones and the daily stressors of life.

One particular moment stands out among the rest. While speaking during one of these engagements, someone overheard me and later approached me, suggesting that I consider working as a community service worker in the mental health field. This encounter sparked a deep reflection on my aspirations and purpose. When I shared this experience with my family and friends, their overwhelmingly supportive feedback affirmed that this path was indeed my true calling.”

Q: In your opinion, why is it important to have representation of people of color in the mental health space?

Caitlin: “It’s truly empowering and comforting to witness more professionals who resemble me in a field that often lacks diversity. When it comes to working with clients, representation plays a crucial role in fostering understanding and empathy. As a black woman, I am more attuned to the distinct challenges and nuances that people of color encounter, making me better equipped to support them.”

Kaleesha: “Having a diverse representation of people of color in the mental health field is crucial for numerous reasons. One of the most significant reasons is the enduring stigma that has affected the African American community’s perception of seeking mental health support. In African American families, there has been a tendency to uphold generational secrecy surrounding mental health, keeping it hidden from the public eye. It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “that’s a family matter” within the Black community, indicating that such information should remain within the confines of the home. In my view, if there were more African Americans or people of color working in the mental health profession, it would encourage more individuals to pursue treatment. Relatability plays a vital role, and I believe it is currently lacking in this field due to the underrepresentation of people of color.”

Terence: “It is crucial to have proper representation in the field of mental health to provide culturally sensitive and compassionate care. Recognizing and tackling the specific challenges and experiences faced by individuals of different ethnicities is crucial in establishing a mental health support system that is inclusive and impactful. By having a wider range of mental health professionals from diverse backgrounds, we can better comprehend and meet the diverse needs of individuals from various walks of life.”

Q: What stigmas, fears, and preconceived notions do you find repeatedly addressed in the black community? Why is it important to destigmatize these things?

Caitlin: “In the Black community, there is a prevalent sense of fear and embarrassment when it comes to seeking help for mental health issues. Many individuals are hesitant to admit their struggles, fearing that they will be perceived as weak or face judgment from others. This apprehension stems from a long-standing societal pressure to appear tough and resilient, even in the face of adversity. However, it is crucial to challenge these notions and foster open discussions about mental health.

By encouraging dialogue and raising awareness, we can alleviate the sense of isolation that individuals may feel and empower them to seek the support they require. Achieving this involves ensuring that mental health professionals are culturally competent and respectful, thereby bridging the gap between different cultures. Additionally, we must actively promote the idea that asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather an act of courage and strength.

Creating safe spaces where individuals feel supported is another vital aspect of this endeavor. By cultivating an environment that encourages open conversations and empathy, we can help individuals feel more comfortable in reaching out for assistance. It is essential to acknowledge that everyone deserves support when they need it, and by transforming our mindset and language surrounding mental health, we can contribute to a more inclusive and supportive society.”

Kaleesha: “In my view, there exist numerous stigmas, fears, and preconceived notions surrounding the Black community. However, I firmly believe that society fails to adequately address these issues. Take, for instance, the ongoing killings of young, unarmed, innocent black men. Additionally, the constant police presence in black communities perpetuates the harmful stereotype that black individuals are either animals or dangerous. It is crucial to dismantle these stigmas because black lives matter. If we do not continue to work towards destigmatizing these harmful preconceptions, the future generation of black men and women will be at risk. In my opinion, gaining knowledge about communities different from our own can also be advantageous in bridging cultural gaps. At the very least, it enables us to better comprehend the historical challenges that these communities have faced and continue to face.”

Terence: “Historically, certain communities have seen a higher number of law enforcement and criminal justice roles than mental health professionals. However, it is vital to acknowledge the significance of mental health professionals and establish opportunities for therapy and psychiatric support within these communities. By raising awareness and improving accessibility to mental health services, we can bridge this gap and offer the essential support that individuals need for their overall well-being.”

Q: Why is top-notch behavioral mental health care important to you?

Caitlin: “Investing in top-notch behavioral health services is crucial for fostering vibrant and compassionate communities, where individuals can truly flourish and thrive.”

Kaleesha: “It is crucial for me to prioritize exceptional behavioral mental health care because mental health disorders can affect anyone. Nobody is immune to facing mental health challenges. The quality of care can truly make a difference for individuals who are struggling to access or sustain the necessary services. Often, those who receive a mental health diagnosis feel bewildered and isolated during their journey. Hence, it is vital to have compassionate professionals in the field who offer outstanding care to guide them through this transitional phase.”

Terence: “Comprehensive mental health care goes beyond individual diagnoses and encompasses broader societal issues like education and affordability, which have an impact on communities of diverse backgrounds. By prioritizing accessible mental health education and improving affordability, we can take crucial steps towards creating a more inclusive and supportive system. To effectively tackle these complex challenges, a holistic approach that considers various aspects is necessary to ensure comprehensive care. I strongly advocate for prioritizing high-quality mental health care for every individual, regardless of their race or ethnicity, to ensure fair treatment for those with the same condition.

Furthermore, I firmly believe that early diagnosis has the potential to reduce incarceration and recidivism rates, especially among people of color. The recent increase in suicide rates among people of color highlights the urgent need to address mental health disparities. It is crucial that we take proactive measures to tackle these challenges and guarantee that mental health services are accessible and fair for everyone.”

Q: What positive effect have you experienced by dedicating yourself to this career path?

Caitlin: “Working in the mental health field has allowed me to embark on a profound journey of self-discovery. Through this career, I have not only gained valuable insights into my own struggles, but I have also developed healthier ways to cope with them. This personal growth has transformed me into a compassionate listener and a pillar of support for those around me who may be facing similar challenges. Moreover, by addressing my own mental health, I have become more attuned to the experiences and needs of my clients. This heightened understanding enables me to empathize with them on a deeper level, ultimately leading to more effective therapeutic outcomes.”

Kaleesha: “Throughout my journey, I have been blessed with numerous positive outcomes by embracing the divine purpose that God has bestowed upon me. By harnessing my patience and drawing from my personal life experiences, I have developed a unique set of skills that have propelled me to excel in this field. My authentic nature and ability to connect with others have played a pivotal role in my success, enabling me to thrive for more than a decade. The joy and fulfillment I derive from not only aiding my colleagues but also supporting those close to me who may be facing challenges is immeasurable.”

Terence: “Each day, I am privileged to witness the direct and uplifting influence I have on the people I assist. By providing care, empathizing with their conditions, and helping them navigate their daily challenges, I can visibly witness the positive changes in their lives. Their heartfelt expressions of appreciation and love, like their grateful words and affectionate gestures, reinforce the deep bond we share. At this point, the word ‘career’ feels insignificant; my true dedication lies in the sheer delight of aiding and empowering others to improve the overall richness of their existence.”

We hope you found this Q&A with our team as insightful as we did.

Schedule a free consultation by calling 866-967-9994 to speak with the intake specialist. Please be prepared to provide general information about current circumstances. More onboarding information can be found here.


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