I remember for the majority of my life mental illness being identified as something only White people dealt with, especially White Males. When we saw suicides reported on the news it was White men. It was like we felt Black people couldn’t be touched by mental illness. I guess it goes hand-in-hand with our idea that we can pray mental illness away. Even despite seeing the family members that were struggling it was attributed to demons and issues with Spirits.
Black people are brought up to be strong, to fight through absolutely anything that comes against us. What we can’t do ourselves, we pray until it disappears. I don’t think there is anything that is much more of a disservice that we could have ever done to our community.
Now, obviously there are always a few that don’t buy into the hype and recognize that they or someone they love really have a problem but what do we do with that? Definitely not go to therapy, right? Therapy in the Black community has always been such a taboo thing. That has always been a White thing too. Black families are raised to keep things in and not share information outside of the household. I believe this comes out of an honest place. During slavery Black people really had to be extremely secretive if they were going to survive. They had to hide everything, from their ability to read to marriages and pregnancies. Any slip of information could have cost entire family their lives. And with the majority of therapists and psychiatrists and other mental health professionals being White, until the recent influx of Brown therapists, that was even more of no-no. Sharing secrets of the Black family with a person who is not only a stranger but also White? What is more dangerous?
As much as I hate to see our people struggling I am so glad to see that brown people are beginning to change their ideas about mental illness and what it looks like and that we are not invincible. As a therapist myself I am loving even more all of the Black and Brown therapists that are coming in and rocking mental health and changing stigmas every day.
So how do we continue to shift this conversation? There are a few myths that we need to debunk for this movement to really move forward.
- Mental Illness does not only impact White people
As I have already mentioned this impacts us as well. And I mean every single diagnosis has the ability to impact people of color. Not just depression and anxiety that we can semi-understand. I mean schizophrenia, gender disorders, all of it. Until we take the blinders off and recognize this we CANNOT get better.
- Prayer alone does not make this disappear
Now, I will proudly say that I am a Christian. I am also a Black, Christian, therapist who struggles with mental health issues. Try that on for size! I believe in God. I believe in the power of prayer. I also believe that God has given us various avenues for getting better. This is something the people of, really all, faiths have to come to terms with. Yes, God is the ultimate but we also have to use the wisdom and resources that He has blessed us with.
- Therapy is okay
Now that we determined that sometimes we have to add a little bit to our fervent prayers it is important to know that you do not have to be ashamed about going to therapy. As a therapist of course I am going to advocate for therapy. If I did not believe in it I would not have spent all of the time and money that it took for me to get here. You know, a lot of times we will say that we can just talk to friends and family about what is going on and sometimes loved ones will give us a hard time about speaking to someone outside of them about our issues but it is not about them. You have to do whatever is going to help you to get better. Having a third party to talk to that is ultimately a “stranger” is beneficial in that they can see things objectively, meaning that they are not taking into consideration what you did last week at the dinner table. They are able to look at the situation with fresh eyes and provide you with a fresh perspective. They don’t have past conversations and experiences with you to draw from and tact onto what they think is going on. Look for a post on my blog about what to expect in therapy and how you can prep yourself.
Black people go through so many different things that pull on us and drain us and I hope that this post was able to show you that it is okay for you to get help. Getting help is a part of Bettering You. If you ever have questions about mental health, whether it is about you personally or a loved one, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media. Let’s conquer this together!