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We All Deserve To Have Our Culture Honored, Especially In Therapy

Press Release – May 7, 2020

We All Deserve To Have Our Culture Honored, Especially In Therapy

Press Release – May 7, 2020

Photo Credit: Paul Newsom

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. If you have been following me for any margin of time, you know very well my commitment to the mental health of black men. When I joined forces with my Co-Founder, Oliver Sims, to start Henry Health, I was naive about what it would take to build a mental health technology company. Two years later, I am more committed than ever to growing a flourishing company. Like most startups, we have experienced highs and lows. We have seen people come and go. I have heard “no” or “you are too early” more times than I care to remember. For those who remain and who decided to invest in us, the underlying thread is our shared commitment to reimagining the mental healthcare experience.

Our company was started because, while experiencing depression, I struggled to find a therapist who understood my life experiences as a black man. When I started talking about my depression publicly, I realized that many of my friends had also experienced depression. Knowing what I knew about the health of black men, I knew that our collective experiences represented a broader problem for black men. Black men have the lowest life expectancy of any population. Part of our thesis was this understanding that unmanaged stress and untreated mental health issues are silent killers that lead to premature death. I have written about this a lot.

What has become more and more evident is that the need for culturally responsive therapy goes beyond black men. Provider bias and cultural stigma lead to misdiagnosis and the underdiagnosis of mental illness among minorities. Moreover, minorities receive mental health care at about half the rate of whites. Candidly, the opportunity to expand our focus beyond black men has been a source of healthy tension in our company and for me. During our focus groups with black men, we have heard the concern that there was not a safe space for black men and that every time space is created, the area is eventually lost to the general population. We have struggled to find a way to be true to our founding thesis while also acknowledging the broader need.

Late last year, Jeff Johnson sat with our team and challenged us on our commitment to black men. Jeff was something like a modern-day prophet reminding us of our founding. Over the last few months, we have intentionally clarified the way we talk about the clear needs of black men and our why- so that black men can show up whole, operate with joy, and live with power. We have always talked about putting culture first, building community, and offering resources that destigmatize mental health. I believe that this is the way to reinvent what mental health looks like for the future– creating communities where people with shared experiences can come together and access resources while having access to therapy. With this thinking, we have realized that our vision is an inclusive one. This vision is to be the leader in providing culturally intentional mental health services through a community experience. Every community is a sacred and unique place for those who will join.

That’s why I asked Jeff to join our team to lead content and community. But, more importantly, Jeff is building our first community, Men Thrive. While made for black men, Men Thrive will be the first of many communities powered by Henry Health that provides culturally competent wellness tools and access to teletherapy.

Culture first, that’s a phrase I’ve heard our chief clinical officer use often over the last several weeks. Tony Spann was that therapist who helped me, and what made our therapy sessions different than my other failed attempts is that he put my culture first. Everyone deserves to have their culture and heritage honored, especially in therapy.

Kevin Dedner, Founder & CEO

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Henry Health

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