This year has been historic for a number of reasons, including the coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted significant racial health disparities. Community leaders and physicians have directed much of their efforts and advocacy toward mental health reform in the Black community.
A local mental health educator saw this time as a perfect opportunity to create a web series centered around providing vital resources particularly for the Black community.
Brandon Johnson, creator of a newly launched Black mental health-focused web series, is a devoted advocate who has spent the last seven years of his professional career fighting for mental health reform.
Johnson’s web series, the ‘Black Mental Health Lounge,’ launched in early July and will contain an assortment of YouTube videos with valuable resources and tips that have a target Black audience. Thus far, there are three videos posted on the YouTube channel.
The web series will feature exclusive interviews with leading experts and guests in the field and will explore a variety of topics pertaining to mental health, including trauma, distance learning for children, coping with racism and discrimination, and a list of others.
“I started it basically from a need that I was seeing in our community with the COVID-19 happening and people being disproportionately impacted by COVID- 19 in terms of cases [and] deaths, and then we saw the uprisings that were happening as a result of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” Johnson said, explaining why he started the web series.
The law enforcement-related murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are two of many traumatic cases that could have a significant mental health effect on Black people globally.
In addition, for the five or so months that the coronavirus pandemic has struck alarming health concerns in the U.S.,“anxiety and depression have increased significantly among African Americans,” said Johnson, citing research from the CDC and other sources.
“There was so much stress and anxiety and pain that was happening on my social media timelines from friends, from family, people that I knew, people that were really being impacted by these things, and just feeling stressed out and feeling a sense of hopelessness,” said Johnson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in health science from Johns Hopkins. “I wanted to create something specifically for the Black community because we deal with things differently, we have different impacts. Obviously racism and discrimination are big ones, but we face issues in healthcare and in housing in different ways than in cultures so I wanted to make it very specific.”
Johnson said he wasn’t sure whether he will start a nonprofit with the same mission as his web series, explaining that he’d first have to examine how many people find his resources useful at the moment.
As a volunteer for the Black Mental Health Alliance and the Green Heart Community and a contributor for the Black Minds Collaborative, Johnson has fought tirelessly for positive mental health and suicide prevention services for youth and adults nationally and locally.
Furthermore, Johnson says he will soon join the Hyattsville-based “A Beautiful Mind Foundation” in an advisory role.
At some point, Johnson hopes to develop an online hub and resource for information— perhaps, a Black Mental Wellness Lounge website or something related thereto. He does however use his social media pages to direct audiences to the web series. Johnson can be followed on Instagram @branjjohnson and on Twitter @BranJJohnson1.
As one who serves on the youth ministry of Morning Star Baptist Church in Woodlawn, Johnson has made concerted efforts to ensure the young people are holding up well, especially in the midst of this difficult time.
In the coming weeks, Johnson plans to roll out more content that will bring awareness to the specific mental health needs, challenges and assets of Black people as he emerges as another voice for Black mental health advocacy in the Baltimore area.
Johnson has prepared to bring guests into the web series throughout August and September to have much-needed conversations on a range of subject matters, one of which being grief in the Black community, and another addressing the impact of criminal justice on mental health.
He also plans to conduct a panel video featuring young Black professionals in the field to offer advice and experiences for prospective mental health experts. Another video will target the religious community, focusing on Black mental wellness and faith.
“There aren’t enough spaces to talk particularly about Black mental health. And so I really wanted to create something that we could do that anybody could watch and look at and get helpful information and tips from,” he said. “I hope that this becomes a really useful and well-utilized resource.”