Thursday, September 24, 2015

Do Black People Fear Therapy?

Black people don't go to therapy. Mind you, this is a very general statement and some of you that are reading this saw that first sentence and said “I do!” or “I did!” or “They don't?” In high school I was sent to three therapy groups and to this day can't tell you why (click here to read more about my experiences with that). Well, in hindsight everything about me screamed “future school shooter” but that wasn't me. Quiet, dark clothes, keeps to himself. If it walks like a duck and quacks like it its likely a Black kid that has a terrible home life and doesn't know how to deal with it. Why?

Because mental therapy is for crazy White people!

That is what I was led to believe growing up. When you look at the history of Black people in this country it isn't all that hard to understand why they would have a distrust for the medical profession. Ever hear of the Tuskegee Experiments? The U.S Public Health Service intentionally withheld syphilis treatment from Black men to see what would happen from 1932 to 1972. As John Heller the Director of the Public Health Service's Division of Venereal Diseases said “For the most part, doctors and civil servants simply did their jobs. Some merely followed orders, others worked for the glory of science.” That doesn't sound too comforting.

A few years ago I went to a free therapy session a friend suggested. The technique used was Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). After one session I felt great. What it does is begin to teach you to recognize the things that you are thinking that are negative and how they affect the actions you make. I told my mother about this when I got home and the first thing she said was “What did you say about me?” the problem. You can only imagine what she thought when I told her I went into a deprivation tank (click here to read about that). For a lot of Black people trying to improve yourself seems to come at the cost of the Black people in your life or community. Make enough money? Move away from the 'hood. Do well in school? You think you're better than them.

Many are crippled by this fear of what others think of them so they continue this cycle of mental problems and behavior then they pass it on to their friends, family, and god forbid their kids. How many times were you asked how you are doing after getting home from school as a teenager? Okay. If you're Black and raised your hand you need to thank your parents for being amazing human beings. Parents are sometimes more concerned with how their kids clothes look than how their kid feels. I never left the house with my clothes wrinkled but came home every day dreading going back to school.

In 2010 the National Healthcare Disparities Report stated that in 2008 Whites were receiving counseling and mental health treatment at twice the rate of Black people. I don't want to get too deep into this but you have the look at some of our history harder than you do. I was a part of the L.A.U.S.D and in school every February were were taught that White people brought our ancestors to America, beat them, enslaved them, set them free eventually, and here we are. You have to know that some of what happened is imprinted on us genetically. We all have genetic fingerprints on us from the past. You didn't just inherit your great-grandmothers eyes and nose. You'll probably get her undiagnosed schizophrenia as well.

The stigma attached to taking care of your head needs to be improved. I'm aware that there is the issue of how to pay for it but there are ways for sure. You don't have to pay hundreds of dollars a visit. There are sliding scales as well as free programs. I'm sure most will spend more on a new phone or clothes than they ever would think to on their own mental health and that is just sad. Everyone has that relative that is considered “weird” or “different” Imagine what you'd call them if they were diagnosed by a healthcare professional. Going to therapy doesn't make you weak. Not going because of what others will say may though.

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