Seattle Foundation Blog

N2N Spotlight: Matumaini Counseling and Community Center

Matumaini provides culturally appropriate mental health education and counseling in the African American community.


December 21, 2018

By Elaine Chu, Philanthropic Advisor

African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health. And while African American communities are  more likely to experience socio-economic factors that increase the risk for developing a mental health condition such as homelessness and exposure to violence, they are also likely to experience more barriers to treatment.

The Matumaini Counseling and Community Center provides holistic counseling services to the African American community in Seattle. They received a Fall 2018 Neighbor to Neighbor grant, which will fund a series of community forums in South Seattle to bring together those who need support and their families with therapeutic services tailored to the African American experience.

Matumaini offers a welcoming and safe forum to increase awareness about the mental health disparities in the African American community. Their counseling includes art, recreational and family therapy, and they provide workshops, summer camps and alternatives to youth gang violence. They build strong networks, developing connections to communities-at-large to create a support system that offers culturally appropriate resources to African American youth and families.

Matumaini also developed a mental health program within Seattle Urban Academy, an alternative high school for at-risk youth and their families, to share coping skills, stress relief and other tools. By providing education and support in class, Matumaini is integrating important life skills in an accessible setting for youth.

One of their successes involves a youth who was referred by King County Drug Diversion Court to create alternatives for juveniles from traditional sentencing for drug infractions. The young man was having a hard time completing his drug court requirements as he struggled to stay drug-free. The court team decided he could start mental health treatment with Matumaini to help address his addiction and the underlying issues. After about a year of therapy with a counselor, the young man was able to stay drug free and graduate from drug court, said James Norris, executive director of Matumaini.

Norris said the center has served about 200 clients in its six years. With a continuing stigma about mental health issues and treatment in the African American community, the work of Matumaini is critical as culturally competent staff and community members provide comfort to families who understand their beliefs, values and experiences. This organization and its programs empower the African American and other under-served communities to overcome obstacles and have a healthy life. For more information, please visit their website: www.matumainicounseling.org.

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African AmericansNeighbor to NeighborHealth and Wellness

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