Mental Health Change Agent (MHCA)
Published By: RallyUp Magazine
Dr. Erlanger “Earl” Turner is a licensed psychologist and an assistant professor of psychology in Los Angeles. He is also the Founder and Executive Director of Therapy for Black Kids, an organization that provides psychoeducational workshops and resources to help parents promote resilience and healthy
emotional development among youth. Dr. Turner has over 15-years of experience in the field and has published research on mental health among racial and ethnic communities, access to behavioral health services, cultural competency, therapy use among parents, and the impact of race-based stress. He is a nationally recognized mental health expert, the author of “Mental Health among African Americans: Innovations in Research and Practice” and the 2020 president of the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
RUM: Why is mental health so important to you?
ET: Mental health is important because it impacts every aspect of our life. If you are overwhelmed or
stressed, it can lead to difficulties with work, relationships, or your physical health. Therefore,
one of my missions as a psychologist is to promote mental health in the Black community.
RUM: How are you maintaining good mental health, Dr. Turner, in midst of the chaos in the
ET: Personally, if I’m having a stressful day it’s hard to be productive. This has been a challenge for
most of us during the pandemic. To help reduce my own stress, I try to maintain a regular self-
care routine which often includes staying hydrated, exercising, and taking breaks throughout the
day. People often think about self-care as something to do every now and then. However, I
encourage people to make time each day even if it’s just 10-15 mins to go for a walk. It can be a
huge help to prevent burnout.
RUM: School is opening back up and some kids are returning back to school, what advice
would you give parents to help their children adjust or deal with any anxiety, fears or
any other emotional reaction?
ET: I think the most important thing to remember is that kids are looking up to their parents or
adults about how to manage their own stress. It’s important for parents to keep things in
perspective and to help kids identify ways to remain calm when things don’t work out as
planned. Try to avoid adding stress on kids by having high expectations this school year
about making all A’s and give them some grace. Instead, encourage them to do their best.
If you notice that your child is becoming more worried about school or about life, consider
finding a therapist in your area to help your child.
RUM: Why do you think it's difficult for youth to open up about what they are feeling?
ET: There can be several reasons why kids may not open up about their feelings. First, depending
on the age of the child they may not have the language to communicate their emotions or
feelings. Also, I think as adults we often used closed-end questions so kids may not be
encouraged to talk at details about their feelings. They may respond with a simple one-word
response. For example, some parents will check-in by asking “how are you feeling today”
and their child may reply “good”. It can help to use open-end questions to promote
RUM: You are an author Dr. Turner, what inspired you to write Mental Health Among
African Americans?... and what do you hope your readers walk away with after reading
ET: My book is primarily intended for therapists and students that are interested in becoming a
therapist. The idea to write the book came to me after I started doing trainings for mental
health professionals across the country about working with Black clients. After doing a series
of trainings across 6-cities, I decided that it may be helpful to package some of the
information in a book to offer a resource to those what wanted to improve their cultural
sensitivity when working with African American and Black clients to improve those
individual engagements in treatment. I hope that after reading the book, therapist will have a
better understanding about their bias, understand how systemic racism impacts mental health
among Black people, and identify ways to integrate culture into treatment.
RUM: Last, we may have readers who are struggling mentally and thinking about giving up,
what would you say to them?
ET: Talking to a professional can be really helpful when people feel stuck or feel like things can’t get
better. Look for therapist online or in your community that can help you work through your difficulty that you may be experiencing. If they feel uncomfortable, they could also consider talking to their medical doctor to see if there are medications to help them.
ABPsi Houston Convention (Association of Black Psychologists) - Dr. Turner with student