NEWS Mental Health News Black and Interracial Friendships Can Be a Safe Space for Mental Health By LaKeisha Fleming LaKeisha Fleming LaKeisha Fleming is a prolific writer with over 20 years of experience writing for a variety of formats, from film and television scripts to magazines articles and digital content. She is passionate about parenting and family, as well as destigmatizing mental health issues. Her book, There Is No Heartbeat: From Miscarriage to Depression to Hope, is authentic, transparent, and provides hope to many. Learn about our editorial process Updated on March 06, 2023 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Zerah Isaacs Fact checked by Zerah Isaacs Zerah Isaacs is a biomedical research associate with experience in both academia and industry. While attending SUNY Albany Zerah investigated the behavioral mechanisms of PTSD. Zerah is currently a research associate at a biotechnology company providing client-based technical assistance on various research projects. Learn about our editorial process Share Tweet Email Print FG Trade / Getty Images Key Takeaways Black friendships can be healing when dealing with discrimination or racial trauma.Friendships among Black people often create a safe space to discuss topics rooted in the Black community.Interracial friendships give each person a chance to learn and grow about different cultural experiences from one another. Whether it’s a casual acquaintance or your BFF, most people have different categories of friends. Close to 70% of Americans say they have friends in specific places, such as workplace friends or school friends. More than 50% have friends associated with activities, like working out at the gym, attending church, or going to a book club. We tend to want to hang out with people we have something in common with. It creates a sense of solidarity. For people of color, having friendships with other Black people not only provides a comforting support system but is also highly beneficial to their mental health. “Having Black friendships provides a relatable space for sharing frustrations, gaining acceptance, and building support toward achieving greatness,” explains Charde’ Hollins, Licensed Therapist, Clinical Social Worker, and CEO of Relevant Connections. Strong friendships can lessen your risk of being depressed or anxious. For some, Black friendships can take it a step further, helping you feel more clearly seen and understood, without pretense or explanation. “Establishing a sense of community that allows you to be your authentic self is essential to maintaining a healthy and meaningful life,” Hollins adds. This article will examine how friendships among Black people impact your mental health, as well as how interracial friendships can be enriching and engaging. 6 Friendship Benefits: Why It's Important to Stay Close to Your Friends The Healing Power of Black Friendships Research shows that having a quality conversation with a friend each day can improve your mental health and even lower your stress levels. Positive friendships improve self-esteem, decrease loneliness, and increase overall mental wellbeing. When a black person has a strong friendship with someone of the same race, there is also a healing component that benefits mental health. This can be especially true when dealing with discrimination or racial trauma.“When black people have people that look like them and have experienced a similar event, it allows for them to connect and better understand each other based on their shared experiences,” says Larry Ford, DBH, LBHP, BC, Founder at Hands to Guide You. “Strong community relationships contribute to empowered individuals who have self-confidence [versus] mental fragility,” he notes. Charde Hollins, CSW Having Black friendships provides a relatable space for sharing frustrations, gaining acceptance, and building support toward achieving greatness. — Charde Hollins, CSW A study among Black undergraduate women at predominantly white colleges found that more than 25% of these women leaned on their Black friendships to deal with racism. They noted that they felt connected in a way that only someone who had that same experience could understand. “There is no denying that black culture is a vibe. This term stems from the need to use creative expression as a tool to cope with the heaviness of systemic oppression and hatred. A vibe offers Black people a safe place to take off the weight of police brutality, economic disparity, racial injustice, and the long list of inequities even if it’s just for the hour,” Hollins states. These friendships can feel enriching, fulfilling, and safe. But friendship is not just about the color of a person’s skin; the content of their character also matters. Having friendships with people of a different race can allow you to learn and grow in other ways. Mental Health Resources for the Black Community Embrace Interracial Friendships Friendships with someone of a different race can present unique opportunities. It still carries similar mental health benefits. But friendship also offers the chance to broaden your horizons and understand a different viewpoint. This is especially true surrounding sensitive topics. In fact, researchers found that though it seems scary to talk about topics like race with interracial friends, healthy discussion can lead to a closer, stronger relationship. It can be a positive, mentally beneficial experience. “Being friends with a different race provides growth opportunities for each person involved,” Hollins notes. “Black people with these friendships are more inclined to feel supported, have an increased level of hope for racial equity, and are less likely to internalize racial injustices because of their positive experiences with other races.” Taking on the risk of talking about a sensitive topic can reap rewards for both friends in the relationship. The thing is, it’s not always easy to start the discussion. It’s important to be sensitive to the other person’s feelings and experiences. Show a genuine desire to listen and learn from what your friend has to say. Don’t be judgmental, or critical, simply because their experience is different from yours. And while it may seem easier thanks to the prevalence of social media to have a discussion online, talking in person provides a more intimate connection, and less chance of being misunderstood. Whether the friendship is with someone who looks like you or not, these relationships are critical to your mental health. And that’s the most important thing to remember. “We live optimally when we give of ourselves—when we share with others, and when we know that the people in our life are ‘safe’—meaning, we respect one another, honor our differences, celebrate our shared connection,” Dr. Ford concludes. What This Means For You Fostering friendships of substance, that enrich your life, and create safe spaces for you to express yourself, is the most important goal of these relationships. Whether you find that valuable experience with someone of the same race, or in an interracial relationship, the key is to be in a healthy relationship that has a positive impact on your mental, physical, and emotional health. Remembering the Black Pioneers Who Helped Shape the Mental Health Landscape 7 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Survey Center on American Life. The State of American Friendship: Change, Challenges, and Loss. Dunbar RIM. The anatomy of friendship. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 2018;22(1):32-51. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2017.10.004 Hall JA, Holmstrom AJ, Pennington N, Perrault EK, Totzkay D. Quality conversation can increase daily well-being. Communication Research. 2023. doi:10.1177/00936502221139363 Lu P, Oh J, Leahy KE, Chopik WJ. Friendship importance around the world: links to cultural factors, health, and well-being. Front Psychol. 2021;11. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.570839 Leath S, Mims L, Evans KA, Parker T, Billingsley JT. “I can be unapologetically who I am”: a study of friendship among black undergraduate women at PWIs. Emerging Adulthood. 2022;10(4):837-851. doi:10.1177/21676968211066156 Northcutt Bohmert M, DeMaris A. Interracial friendship and the trajectory of prominority attitudes: Assessing intergroup contact theory. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 2015;18(2):225-240. doi:10.1177/1368430214550342 Sanchez, K. L., Kalkstein, D. A., & Walton, G. M. A threatening opportunity: The prospect of conversations about race-related experiences between Black and White friends. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2022;122(5), 853–872. doi:10.1037/pspi0000369 See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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