A former investment banker-turned-entrepreneur is putting the focus on Black mental health through the creation of a new app dubbed Ayana. The digital platform aligns individuals from underrepresented communities with culturally competent therapists, Fast Company reported.
The app’s creator, Eric Coly, was inspired to launch Ayana after one of his friends shared her struggles with finding a Black therapist. After delving into research Coly, who has experienced his own bouts with depression, discovered that the inability to find a Black therapist was an issue that many encountered. African Americans account for 4 percent of therapists in the United States. Ayana utilizes algorithms to connect users with therapists based on their ethnicity, gender, language, sexual orientation and culture. Users can contact therapists anonymously. The platform currently features 55 counselors and hopes to grow that number to 1,000 by the end of next year as many individuals have shown interest in getting involved. Although there is a fee for members to use the app, Coly plans on working with nonprofit organizations to ensure that Ayana is affordable and accessible.
All in all, Coly hopes that the app will take away the stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health issues. “No one should have to go into a place where you are meant to discuss issues in your life and discuss race as an issue for most of the session. No one should have to educate a counselor,” he told Fast Company. “We have to make sure that the people who have been neglected now get to be heard.”
Several platforms have been launched that are designed to empower people of color to take charge of their mental health. Public health advocate Kevin Dedner created a digital platform dubbed Henry Health to provide Black men with culturally sensitive mental health services.