Have you ever tried to recommend therapy to another Black person? As a black mental health professional and future psychologist, I always find myself talking about the importance of mental health to my black friends and family, and most of the time, I am met with silence or being brushed off; especially when I discuss self-care to my black family and sleep hygiene to my millennial friends. I recently recommended to a close friend that he should consider going to therapy. I’ve notice that he was struggling with a lot of stress and needed a non-judgmental person to help him cope with some of the issues. Similar to the other Black people that I have suggested therapy to, my friend brushed off my suggestion and preceded to come up with excuses as to why he did not want to seek therapy. So what’s the problem with Black people and seeking mental health?
The problem is that there is a huge stigma surrounding mental health, psychologists, and counseling among black people. When Black people have a problem, we typically seek help from the church or from family members. In my opinion, seeking help from the church and family is a good thing to do; however, there are some things that the local pastor and grandma cannot help you with; especially if the problem stemmed from one of those outdated beliefs/rules of the church or the judgmental reactions of family.
I think a big problem Black people have with seeking therapy is being unaware of the logistics and importance of mental health. Some people believes that seeking mental health care means that they have severe problems, while others feel that mental health problems only exists among other cultures. Many people in the culture have a strong mistrust of mental health professionals in general.
This is where the importance of psychoeducation comes into play. Psychoeducation is the process of providing information about mental health to health individual get a better understanding of resources, diagnosis, and help dispel concerns that may exists. It is very important that the Black community start discussing mental health problems and mental health care to disseminate the stigma we have and to help with some of the struggles with face as a community and as individuals.
Recently, I came across an article on Huffington Post of two black psychologists who found a really cool and exciting way to provide psycho-education to the black community. Dr. Riana Anderson and Dr. Shawn Jones post bi-weekly videos titled “Our Mental Health Minute” explaining and portraying different mental health issues as it pertains to the black community. Some of the topics includes, depression, PTSD (and other traumas), coping, and they even explain what is therapy and how it may look different from what you see. I appreciate their creativity with finding an outlet to show the importance of mental health care among the Black Community. I will post a few videos below that I love!
Black Mental Health is important and we need to begin discussing the mental health issues that we face. Many of us are dealing with issues of complex trauma, community violence, and let’s not forget the after effects of slavery and racism. Going to therapy and promoting mental health can help us as a community deal with these issues. We must break down this stigma and better our mental health.