July is Minority Mental Health Month.
If you are a person of color, you know how much mental illness is stigmatized in our communities. As a black 25 year old female with a Jamaican Christian background, I had to fight so much negativity when I started to go to therapy. I grew up being told to pray my troubles away, figure it out instead of telling people my business and especially not to go to therapy because it was for “crazy” people. I was even told to tough it out by an older family member because they didn’t have an easy life but didn’t have the privilege of going to therapy and they got through it. Ironically, it was my negative environment that caused me to go to therapy in the first place. Before we even spoke to anyone about how I felt, I was having an internal battle for months. Maybe years without me even realizing. There is such an empty space when it comes to communication and how we address tough issues but it stops with me.
People of color are already battling the limiting resources of health, educational, social and economics that translates into socioeconomic disparities experienced by African Americans today. We can’t be stopping each other from getting the help they need emotionally and mentally to get better. When things are too heavy, we sweep it under the rug, brush it off, told to pray it away, and try to hush up the person/people involved scared that more people will find out. All temporary fixes to long term issues that result in them just getting heavier and families being broken apart.
If you read my “Family Ties” post, you’ll know how your family can construct your perspective on how you see the world and build relationships with others and yourself. In my anxiety and panic attacks post, I talk about how it took going away to college and facing my anxiety and depression head on for me to realize that there was so much I went through during my childhood and was going through at the present time that had a strong hold on me and it was too strong for me to just shake off. When I finally broke down and told a friend, she encouraged me to go to the counseling center on campus and that changed my life.
My therapist suggested that I try medication to aid me in my recovery. I did my research about my options and decided to give it a try. When my mom found the bottle while packing up my stuff after the semester ended, she was furious and I was ashamed. So much that I stopped taking them and the inevitable happened- I went backwards instead of forwards. I began to retreat and isolate myself to cope. It was so bad that my family started to worry. By that time I felt so suffocated and lost that I came clean to my mom and we had an open conversation ending in her helping me find a psychologist here at home to see.
I share this to encourage you to not listen to that voice that tells you to hide how you feel. You feel that way for a reason and it’s begging to be addressed. Some things you can’t just wish, shake or hope away. Not even pray away. You have to do your part and the sooner, the better because the world needs you at your best. You have so much to offer and the benefits of going to therapy are endless. Even if you feel “okay” it can still help in ways you’ve never imagined. Everyone has invisible burdens they can’t see but feel everyday that may be stunting their happiness and growth. Things pushed down so deep that you don’t think about them anymore but they’re still showing signs on the surface. Talking to someone that you don’t know personally is imperative because you can be 100% yourself. You don’t have to worry about being ashamed, judged or even ridiculed.
If you don’t feel okay, it’s even more important for you to seek help immediately. Mental illness has a way of making you feel like you’re all alone in this. That no one understands how you feel. That no one even cares. Or maybe you want to express how you feel but can’t find the right words. That’s where therapy comes in and it will save your life. Click here to get your FREE download of 10 Ways To Be Happy Right Now!
Here Are Some Common Misconceptions About Therapy:
1. You’re crazy. No you’re not! You’re hurting and no one is exempt from pain. If not dealt with, it will just cause more damage.
2. Only white people do that. Yes it is more normalized for Caucasians to go to therapy but more and more people of color are going as the years goes go. Or at least more people are opening up about going. Though it may be intimidating, start the conversation in a healthy way. Speak to a family member or friend who is more open minded to the idea to avoid negativity.
3. Black people have been through so much, fought through the pain and are still here. You can do the same. This kind of thinking is toxic because even though its intention is to encourage you, all it does is isolate you instead. Decide that that counteractive thinking ends with you. Put yourself first seek help to get better and encourage others to do the same.
4. They(therapists) don’t care about you. You’ll just end up being a medicated zombie. I was told this when I first brought up the idea of therapy. This ignorance comes from most people not even knowing the main difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. Psychologists focus on the mental and emotional conflicts in their patients and use behavioral intervention as a solution to help them. No medication included. Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors with the ability to prescribe medication to help their patients. They focus on managing the usage of these medications as treatment. By going to a psychologist, you are mainly going to talk about your feelings and letting them all out on the table in efforts of getting assistance in organizing and understanding them better so you can conquer not hide from them. If things are deeper than predicted, that’s when they may refer you to a psychiatrist for treatment.
5. It’s expensive. I thought this as well since it’s a well paid career. However, depending on your health insurance, it may be covered without it placing a burden on your pockets. In my personal experience, since I was under my mother’s insurance, she reached out to them and got a list of psychologists in our area that took our insurance. From there, I did my research on each and chose to go to the one that was the best fit for me (i.e. distance, availability, if they were a woman, etc.).
6. No one knows you better than you’re family. There are a bunch of benefits when it comes to talking to someone from the outside. Have you ever met someone, automatically clicked with them and before you knew it, you were telling them things that you never told anyone else? Yeah that’s because you felt the freedom you get when you don’t feel judged. That’s a huge advantage because as a result, you can be 100% yourself. No holding back your hurt so no holding you back from your healing.
7. Don’t tell a stranger your business. As long as you aren’t creating any physical danger to yourself or others, whatever you tell your psychologist is 100% confidential. You don’t have to worry about it coming back around to haunt you like what may happen when you tell anyone else. It is their job to listen to your burdens, pains, and worries. You’re in good hands.
I hope this encourages you to be proactive about your personal growth. Going to therapy may bring up some unpleasant things but it definitely does more good than harm. When you face your fears and traumas, you can conquer them. When you conquer them, they can no longer hold you back and be used against you. When that happens, you’re unstoppable. Each and every one of us deserves all the happiness and success that this world has to offer. Please give yourself the chance to find out. Then help others realize this too.