Author Spotlight: The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health by Dr Rheeda Walker

by Kima Tozay

Dr. Rheeda Walker, a Clinical Psychologist, tenured University of Houston Professor of Psychology and professional speaker brings you her expert advice in the book, The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health. In each chapter, Dr. Walker provides a blue-print for how mental health has been managed in the Black community and speaks to the current mental health crisis in the Black community. 

Her guidance is not just for mental health professionals, but for anyone who identifies as Black or African American and are trying to navigate the complexities of mental healthcare in a world where stigma, racism, and toxic stress are front and center of everyday life. Dr. Walker takes very difficult subjects such as suicide, depression, anxiety, and racism and makes it easier for anyone, regardless of professional background, to understand and talk about. Throughout the book, she references the importance of protecting our psychological fortitude (PF) through the daily choices people make when facing obstacles that often beyond their control.  Using the concept of PF as a rating system and self-check tool, Dr. Walker urges Black people to perform quick, regular check-ins with themselves and their loved ones on their PF level on 0- to-10 rating scale (0 means no desire to go with life; 10 means you feel phenomenal). 

The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health provides a wealth of information about the history of the Black experience with mental healthcare systems and cultural protective factors such as ties to faith communities and access to large supportive networks of family members and kin-folk to help survive the multitude of life stressors faced as Black people.  Dr. Walker does a great job explaining when seeking professional mental health support is the best option depending on signs and symptoms and clearly defining which professional to seek out to get the most appropriate level of care within the complex mental healthcare system. Dr. Walker culminates this helpful guidebook by offering resources and concrete strategies to help bolster psychological fortitude. Many of the tools mentioned, such as deep breathing, changing negative self-talk, and eliminating words like “should” from your daily vocabulary because they do more harm than good, are basic and with a little effort and consistency can become daily self-care practices. 

If you are someone who identifies as Black or African American or work closely with the Black community as a service provider, I highly recommend that you read Dr. Walker’s The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health. To learn more about Dr. Walker’s work or to order the book check out her website

About the Author: Kima Tozay is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Grief Counseling Specialist, and a bereaved mom who is dedicated to supporting and advocating for families impacted by infertility and pregnancy and infant loss. She supervises licensed military social workers, home visitors for the Navy birth to three program and DV advocates as a military Social Work Supervisor. As an advocate for maternal mental health, Kima and a team of other bereaved mothers, was instrumental in getting Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth legislation passed in Washington State. She is on the Board of Directors of Return to Zero Hope, a non-profit organization where she also facilitates support groups for Women of Color. Kima is also Secretary of PSI Washington State Chapter and a member of the Perinatal Mental Health Taskforce. 

Looking for other Black Maternal Mental Health Resources?

For more information about mental health resources and health equity issues impacting the Black community please explore the following resource directories, websites, and articles:

Perinatal Support Washington Resources & Referrals for Families of Color

Therapy for Black Girls (podcast/directory)

Black Mamas Matter Alliance

Return to Zero Hope: Grieving in the BIPOC Community Resource Page

Black Women for Wellness

The Good Trade: 13 Black Wellness Influencers to Follow

Black Mental Health: 3 Myths that Hurt Us

Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Pregnancy-Related Deaths | CDC

To Prevent Women from Dying in Childbirth, First Stop Blaming Them

Black Mamas Matter: Maternal deaths a ‘human rights crisis’

Hospitals blame moms when childbirth goes wrong. Secret data suggest it’s not that simple

#BlackMamasMatter Draws Attention To Racial Disparity In Maternal Mortality Rates

Race & Maternal Mortality Are Linked & Black Mothers Are Paying the Price

BIPOC Mental Health Month Toolkit by Mental Health America