“Black culture is cool, but Black issues sure aren’t, huh?” – Azealia Banks
Black people. I love us. Us just being our normal selves has influenced so much of what is “hot” in America these days. Everyone wants to emulate our style; everyone wants to try-on [*cough*take*cough*] our culture. And as annoying, eye-rolling, and cringe worthy as it can be at times I must admit there is some level of flattery and pride in it as well.
But here’s the thing… not everything about Black culture should be idealized. Namely, our culture’s negative views on mental health.
Some of these views have some real fears behind them, such as Black people being afraid of being labeled as crazy if they see a therapist. Or fearing that revealing something personal will lead to some type of legal action being taken against them, like being locked up or having their kids taken away. These are rational, legitimate fears.
Other views though are just a bit far-fetched. Like the idea that all counselors are old white people sitting behind a desk that ask, “How does that make you feel?” all day. Or that you shouldn’t tell a stranger your business. And of course, my utmost favorite, “Mental health issues are the Devil – just pray!”
According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 10% more likely than other races to experience serious psychological distress. (I have a whole blog about Racial Battle Fatigue coming soon, whew chile). Being Black means facing challenges that we otherwise wouldn’t if our skin was a different color. Challenges that can wear down on us real quick.
Below you'll find real-life quotes from Black people in my life that were heard at a dinner table when the topic of Black people going to therapy came up. But I’m like the AK-47 of counseling clapback’s, with the extend clip. So, after each quote is how I (as a counselor) would challenge those fears. Enjoy.
“I went to a counselor once and I didn’t feel like they really did anything.”
- If you had one bad date would that stop you from going on dates forever? No. You’ll try again until you find that person you connect with. Think of finding a counselor in the same way.
“In my younger days I needed help, but I’m good now. I don’t have all that going on anymore.”
- It’s suggested that you visit your primary care physician once a year for a check-up, just to be sure your body is running smoothly. Well your brain needs check-ups too and that’s why we’re here.
“A counselor would need a counselor after talking to me.”
- Most graduate programs in counseling actually require students meet regularly with their own therapist. It’s healthy and encouraged. I’ve had three so far myself.
- Also, we hear a lot of shit...like A LOT. What you think is your worst is probably nowhere near as bad as you think it is.
“I don’t want to have someone give me their opinion or advice.”
- If your counselor is giving you their own opinions or advice you need to run, fast and quick, and report them while you’re at it. We don’t give advice. We help think about your patterns of behavior and thoughts in a way that leads to healthier living.
The whole reason I got into mental health is to help my people, Black people. It is important to change our old ways of thinking for us to move forward. Change isn’t easy, but its time we learn to release Black people. [Insert a woo-sah here]. That’s my hope for this blog. That people will read it and take some time to say “Hmm. I never thought about it that way.” As a Counselor, that means my job is done. Even if you read this and still decide never to go to therapy, my hope is to offer a fresh way of thinking about things.
What are some fears you have or have heard when it comes to seeing a counselor? I’d love to address them in the comments section.