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Meet the Social Worker Who's Improving Mental Health Care for Queer & Trans People of Color

Credit: Yev Zakharkin

"We have to support each other to get around these systems that have pretty much been set up to keep us out."

A California social worker has launched a network for queer and transgender therapists to address the country's abysmal mental health care for LGBTQ people.

Erica Woodland, a social worker in Oakland, California, founded the National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network just two weeks ago. Almost 800 people have joined the virtual network.

"It really came from a dream of mine to connect queer and trans people of color in the mental health field to each other so we can be connected and support each other," Woodland said. "I think the level of need is so high and so real, and there's so much trauma in our community."

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that LGBTQ people are three times more likely to experience a mental health condition such as generalized anxiety disorder or depression. Their rates of suicide, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse are also much higher.

The network seeks to link providers with patients, with those thinking about a career in mental health, and even with other providers.

"People are going to get help, and they're having to deal with providers who sometimes don't want to work with them at all, or are completely ill-equipped to work with them," Woodland said. "There's a level at which people are having to navigate oppression in their seeking of help, which is just ridiculous."

The network has also begun an online directory of queer people of color providers, which Woodland hopes will be available by the end of June. She hopes to expand the directory to allied care providers and travel the country offering training to health care workers--"things they won't learn in school," she said.

"We have each other and we're going to take care of our community," Woodland said. "And that's always been the way that marginazlied folks have survived."

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