Normalizing mental health in communities of color
“Something inside of me doesn’t feel right. I feel like I’m depressed, but if I tell someone, they are going to think I’m crazy.”
The sad reality is that these are the thoughts of many, especially those who are minority.
As minorities, the last thing we want to do is admit that we need help; especially when it comes to mental health treatment. For most, seeking treatment in the form of counseling, means that we are “weak” or that we are not “trusting in God” for a better outcome.
In the grand scheme of things, acknowledging that something is wrong and seeking out the right kind of help to address emotional issues is a true sign of strength!
With July being recognized as “Minority Mental Health Month,” Mental Health America recognizes that
“mental health issues may need to be addressed with a unique lens when working with individuals and families with diverse values, beliefs, and sexual orientations, in addition to backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity, religion, and language.”
Mental illness affects a large number of people in the U.S. however, of that number, minorities are the least likely to seek help.
Why is this?
Some of the top three reasons are listed below:
Embarrassment, the stigma and judgment from others. The fear of telling someone other than friends, family or a church pastor would be considered “out of the ordinary.” In most African-American cultures, we are taught to “just pray” about our problems and they will somehow “go away.” If someone learns that we are seeking psychotherapy treatment, we fear we will be judged and considered “crazy.” So we make the decision to suffer in silence or seek out help from those who have no true clinical experience to help.
Apprehension about therapist. Often times, as minorities, when seeking out help, be it medical, mental health or other healthcare related services, we prefer to have someone that “looks like us”. Simply, we want a Black therapist. While Black therapists are underrepresented, the representation is on the rise. The fact that the number has been low for years has been the reason most minorities shy away from seeking therapy. However, there are many ways to research the availability of Black therapists in one’s hometown, community, etc. Websites sites such as Therapy for Black Girls, Black Therapists Rock, Therapy for Black Men and even Psychology Today can be a great resource in starting a search for Black/minority therapists.
Cost of treatment and health insurance coverage. There are times when the financial burdens of mental health treatment will determine if a person seeks out treatment or not. Often times, we assume that although we may have medical coverage under our insurance, we may not have behavioral/mental health coverage. The truth is, most health insurance companies also add mental health coverage to their plans. It really comes down to lack of knowledge and understanding your benefits. Contacting your health insurance company and speaking with a representative who can assist you with explaining your mental health benefits is a great start. A representative can also help you to find local therapists in your area that accept your insurance. On the contrary, for those who are unemployed, or under-insured, access to mental health services could be seen as a challenge. However, this is not always the scenario. There are many mental health agencies in communities that offer reduced to free services for the uninsured and under-insured. It is important to check with local agencies in your hometown to see what mental health treatment program services are available.
Let’s normalize mental health in the same way we normalize medical care!
Mental health and wellness is just as important and an important part of self-care. When we seek to take care of the whole body, we are doing a wonderful thing for ourselves.
There is absolutely nothing wrong about taking care of your mind and emotions.
Take the first step into seeking out a therapist and connecting with one that you feel most comfortable sharing your emotional/mental struggles with.
We are not meant to suffer in silence.
No matter your race, you deserve to be cared for!
Meet the Breast Cancer Baddie Champion
Tamara Sorrye is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Jacksonville, FL and is employed full-time at UF Health Jacksonville where she addresses the psychosocial needs of oncology patients. She is also the owner and operator of Genesis Clinical Counseling, LLC where she provides psychotherapy services which specialization in grief, anxiety, depression and adolescents issues.