America’s black population has historically suffered at the hands of powerful, enduring enslavement, isolation, and cultural carnage. Today, the legacy of these hardships manifests itself in nuanced micro-aggressions coupled with institutional discrimination that continue to adversely impact the mental health of the black population. This, in addition to the many barriers that impede our community to accessing proper mental health care, essentially hinders our ability, compared to other populations, to live a life of ease.
Due to societal conditions, African Americans are 20% more likely to endure circumstances that heighten the chances of having a mental illness. Common mental health disorders among the population include depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the American Psychiatric Association, one out of three African Americans who need mental health care receive it and, compared to the general population, African Americans are more likely to stop treatment and less likely to receive follow-up care.
When most of a community does not have access to a quality education that informs them on the characteristics of a positive psychological well-being, it leads to a lack of information surrounding mental health. Many stigmatize mental health disorders with a personal weakness or a punishment due to the fact that the topic is taboo. Suffering in our community has been normalized throughout history. The lack of access to information on mental health and the stigma attached are barriers to recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions. Many don’t realize the amazing benefits that arise out of therapy. It grants you the opportunity to become closer to yourself through greater understanding of your anxiety.
What can you do to get help?
This is not to say that we are completely devoid of forms of emotional support or that we shouldn’t seek emotional support. Research finds that African Americans tend to resort to church, family, and community as sources of encouragement rather than turning to health care professionals. These are great resources but sometimes expressing our feelings to our immediate circle is not enough. I encourage women going through an unsettling time, dealing with an array of emotional roller coasters or simply loneliness to open up to a therapist. You never know what people have gone through to get to where they are, and how their experiences could be of benefit to your life. We aren’t meant to figure everything out by ourselves. Listening and learning from the experiences of those around us and applying them to our own lives is growth.
bell hooks, the famed black feminist and writer, deems therapy to be “healing, it brings you into your body…it answers the questions that your body raises.” When you are given the freedom to discuss your issues with a stranger, it enables you to fully release your feelings, free of judgment, free of assumptions and free of expectations. In therapy, you have the ability to dissect your behavior and feelings, with the help of a professional who can keep you grounded to the truth. When I was undergoing therapy, during my rough spots, my therapist would assign me homework based on my overarching goals for myself. These exercises gave me the opportunity to monitor my anxiety. Anytime I felt negative emotions surfacing I would look into why I was feeling that way. I would pinpoint what triggered each emotion and then work on a plan to stop being triggered by that very thing. These practices made me more aware of what situations I should put myself in to thrive but also what I could do to improve my attitude. The ability to constructively evaluate yourself and understand the role anxiety plays in keeping me unhappy. The role that people
There are many forms of talk-therapy each with their own benefits depending on where you are. Psychotherapy, is the form that I recommend most to relieve anxiety. This talk-therapy works to assist patients in quelling their illness with a psychologist who offers procedures to help develop healthier and more effective life habits. This collaborative treatment is based on the relationship between you and the psychologist. It allows for a supportive environment where you can talk openly about your life free of judgment. In addition to treatment, participation in patient support groups can be helpful to the recovery process. In these groups members share their personal experiences with illnesses, the exchange in information can help in developing coping skills and feeling less alone in recovery. Many people question how long to remain in treatment. It’s sometimes difficult to gauge your progress but talking to your therapist about a plan can help. As a professional, they can tell if you are healthy enough to have less sessions or to continue on regularly. Even if you choose to discontinue sessions, it’s great to know that you have the ability to go back if things get rough again. Therapy and self-care isn’t going anywhere. It all depends on your ability to look inward and be self-aware of your mental health.
Although it may be terrifying to seek help, know that like any part of your body, your brain has the potential to get sick. Mental health conditions are not just emotional reactions to situations but medical conditions that impact how you think and your day-to-day life. Although it isn’t your fault, if you want sufficient change taking the initiative to find help well positively impact you for years to come.