Riana Elyse Anderson

Riana Elyse Anderson
Location: Detroit, Michigan Cohort Start Year: 2016 Population Served: Urban Communities
Assistant Professor
University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education

Repeated exposure to instances of racism and discrimination can result in psychological problems, lower educational attainment, and increased cardiovascular disease, even if it is through just witnessing these events. Research has shown that race-based traumatic stress is common among Black people following negative in-person and witnessed discriminatory racial encounters. Given the recent heightened national awareness of police brutality, understanding how adults can support and protect youth from the effects of past, current and future instances of racism and discrimination is important. Dr. Anderson developed the Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race (EMBRace) program to address these issues and improve Black family wellbeing. EMBRace is a seven-week family program that brings parents and their children together for conversations on race, cultural pride, discrimination and stress management in an effort to reduce parent and adolescent racial stress, promote bonding for families, and improve adolescent psychological well-being and academic engagement. EMBRace is among the first programs to use culturally-specific theories and evidence-based practices to address discriminatory racial encounters and reduce racial stress and trauma. Families meet with program staff once a week for 90 minutes. We use relaxation, journaling, debating, role-playing and media in the program to facilitate conversations on race between parents and their children. EMBRace is currently focusing on families in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race (EMBRace) Program for Black Families’ Mental Health
The uptake of mental healthcare services is often viewed through the lens of access, utilization, and quality. With race being perhaps the most salient factor impacting the aforementioned cluster, black Americans are the least likely to perceive a need for services and to seek services for mental healthcare. However, what is less known is how much the quality of service provision impacts the decision of Black youth and adults to seek treatment. As such, it is critical for there to be a blend of mental health practitioners’ skills with a burgeoning awareness of racial factors impacting mental health for black clients. As an example of a community-responsive program addressing these issues, the Engaging, Managing, and Bonding Through Race (EMBRace) program was developed to encourage Black families’ involvement with therapy, as well as clinical training for those serving the clients. The goal of the strategic initiative is to establish community partnerships and strategic recruitment strategies with at least two organizations/settings: the Adolescent Medicine department within Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Los Angeles Unified School District Student Health and Human Services via intervention services and charter schools. In turn and over time, improvements in these areas are posited to improve the three critical challenges to service provision to Black families: 1) access to services through referrals and maintenance through community-facing organizations, 2) utilization of care through engagement with therapeutic agencies, and 3) quality of service provision through clinicians trained to address Black families’ mental health concerns.

Riana Elyse Anderson is a clinical and community psychologist who investigates how protective familial mechanisms like racial socialization operate in the face of risks linked to discrimination. Riana is the developer and director of the Engaging, Managing, and Bonding through Race (EMBRace) program and loves to translate her work for a variety of audiences, particularly those whom she serves in the community via blogs, video, and literary articles.

Click here to watch Riana’s Legacy Project video.