By Christina Thompson

Why don’t you just go to therapy?

Image result for think about it meme
Short answer, I’m poor. Also, the depression can’t get you if you sleep…a lot.

Now onto the real truth of the matter, many of us were taught to have unbreakable strength, phenomenal will, endurance as this has served generations before me in overcoming oppression, unfair laws, discrimination, racism, and more. Obviously, this doesn’t serve in every area of life, but we still try to make it fit.

According to the US Department’s Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 per cent more likely than the general population to experience serious mental health issues. However, black people, as a community, don’t really take mental health seriously and most don’t embrace therapy as a valuable and important part of their health. We often follow a mantra of “just pray about it” or “God will work it out” when things get hard.

There are three reasons why black people don’t do therapy: family, stigma, and faith. In the black community, there is this understanding that “we don’t talk about our business.” There might be a resistance to therapy because of the fear that it may reflect badly on the family as it’s an outward admission of the family’s inability to handle problems internally. Most black people tend to rely on family for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though this may at times be necessary. Therapy can help people become more aware of their situations by offering unbiased professional advice and help them gain coping skills and accountability. However, the “what goes on in this house stays in this house” mentality keeps most away.

Mental health issues are viewed as character flaws, signs of weakness, and/or something you keep to yourself. Mental health issues are seen as weakness, running counter to the survivalist mentality that supposedly comes from years of oppression. One very useful thing we do is compare our personal struggle (in 2019) to the horrors of slavery and historical racism and mistreatment thus rendering depression, anxiety, and other mental struggles simply minor irritants that can easily be fixed with a little weed, a little Jesus and lot less whining. There is also this widespread idea that therapy is for crazy people and white people. Historically speaking, there has always been this idea that only middle-class white people have the time and privilege of indulging in the self-conceived problems of their mind, while poorer and working class people of colour were busy dealing with the problems of our bills, and well, our skin. Resilience is in our history and culture. We know how to laugh and make do with little material resources. We don’t waste time talking about our problems with a stranger and we damn sure don’t pay them for it. That would be weird, wasteful and “white.”

Finally, there is this whole “faith” thing. According to a study by PEW, 94 per cent of black people believe in God and 73 per cent pray. Many people in the black community practice some form of religion. The phrase “just pray about it” is used heavily. Whether someone has lost a loved one or a job, they’re told to “just pray about it.” Oftentimes when therapy is discussed, it’s viewed as something that takes the place of one’s faith or religion. Therapy is not a replacement for religion and religion is not a replacement for therapy. Sometimes that alone is not enough. God places people on this earth to be servants for what he needs to accomplish. This comes in the form of doctors, pastors, and, oh, therapists – well, that’s what I believe. Many were raised to take all problems to God and nothing else. If you are not “healed” or if there is no change in your situation, that simply means that your faith wasn’t strong enough and you should pray harder.

We watched our grandparents and parents make it through life without therapy, so we do the same.

Featured Image from She’s Gotta Have It © Island Pictures

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