Book Review: The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health

book cover: The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health by Rheeda Walker

To be clear right from the start, as a white chick, I’m not the intended audience of The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health by Rheeda Walker. It’s not that it’s not relevant, but the author is clear that I’m not who she’s trying to speak to. This book is written by a Black woman and explicitly directed at Black people. However, it also offers interesting cultural insights that are relevant to all audiences.

The author explains that she did a Ph.D. in psychology because she wanted to challenge the privileged assumption that depression in Black people looks the same as in white people. Depression the illness has similarities, but depression the experience is very much culture-bound.

Throughout the book, she gives scenarios to illustrate the concepts covered. These are all explicitly tied into Black culture and the things that Black people are faced with. The notion of improving psychological fortitude underpins the various topics covered.

Early on, the book addresses the issue of suicide. Walker acknowledges that it’s a common belief among Black pastors that suicide is a white people issue, and Black people are seen as being too resilient for suicide.

Racism and its effects come up often throughout the book. Walker gives suggestions on how how to distinguish between disordered anxiety and the very real worries that Black people face because of racism and horrific situations like the killing of Trayvon Martin.

The author argues that assimilation won’t help, and can lead to the internalization of racist ideas. Her research has shown that Black people who don’t view their own Blackness in a positive light are at a higher risk for suicide.

She suggests that psychological fortitude benefits the most from increasing connectedness with Black culture. She encourages embracing natural hair and African American Vernacular English (also known as Ebonics) as examples to promote reconnection.

There’s a chapter devoted to faith, and the benefits in terms of both spirituality and connection to culture and community. The author makes it clear that talking to a pastor isn’t mental health care, and while you would pray to the Lord, “sometimes God sends a psychologist.”

The book offers suggestions for supporting your child’s mental health and your own wellbeing as a parent. There’s a chapter on therapy that covers how to access it, common misconceptions, and what therapy actually looks like. The author also covers some CBT-based coping tools.

While I can’t directly speak to how well this book will connect with target audiences, I thought it was very well written and delivered an important message. I would definitely recommend it.

The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

I received a reviewer copy of this book from Netgalley.

You can find my other book reviews here. You may also be interested in Blackness Interrupted: Black Psychology Matters by Nicól Osborne and Tamera Gittens.

17 thoughts on “Book Review: The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health”

  1. Great review! I’m so glad this book exists to challenge problematic stereotypes that mental health problems (like suicide) are “only for white people.” And thank you for linking to the I Run With Maud petition – his murderers should absolutely face justice

  2. Being white I can’t really speak to it, but I’ve often heard how African Americans (especially women) struggle to be taken seriously regarding mental health, which is truly unfair. Hopefully books like this will help that issue.

  3. Wow, sounds like the book is very important. May it find its way into hands that need healing.

    We are saddened to hear of the killing. While we are not very political or informed, we know we do not want additional violence. We wonder if restorative justice is a concept worth exploring in general

    Hi, Ashley!!! ❤️💕❤️💕❤️

    1. Hello! A social worker I used to work with did some restorative justice work, and it sounds like it can work well if all parties are committed to doing the work. ❤️

  4. Hi Ashley, thanks for that review. I’m glad that you found it helpful despite that it was directed at black people. I hope it doesn’t put others off reading it because of that. I’ve not read it myself, but it sounds like it has helped others greatly.

  5. Great review Ashley and it looks like a book I would read – out of curiosity. We had annual training on BM (Black Minority) in the UK and some of the discussions got quite heated.

    One issue was constantly raised: what will help black mental health patients? The trainers’ answer was; more black nurses and doctors.

    However, they were unable to answer effectively or conclusively – how do new immigrant black African nurses and Doctors understand the culture of black youths who have grown up in the UK?

    For some of us, as nurses in a large city like London, we had far more understanding of the cultural and other issues/difficulties that black people faced. Patients also appreciated the support and understanding offered by UK (no matter the colour) ‘grown’ staff.

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