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Stigma behind mental health in the Black community

Posted at 6:20 PM, Feb 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-07 19:20:07-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The stigma of mental health isn't new to the Black community.

According to research from Columbia University, Black men and women are more likely to experience depression and anxiety at a higher rate than other races.

Experts also say there are shared cultural factors that equate to why the Black community handles life experiences differently. It's been said by researchers that the root of the mental health stigma among Black people can be traced back to slavery. At that time, it was commonly thought enslaved people were not sophisticated enough to develop depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders. From those historic misconceptions, the Black community learned to ignore mental illness or call it other terms, like ‘stress’ and ‘being tired.'

Many historical figures including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was said to have experienced depression. Unfortunately, the scenario continues to be common and the biggest question is, "why?"

"Trauma is hereditary," said Eric Williams, "As long as trauma is hereditary, you're going to inherit your great, great, great grandparent's trauma. You're not going to have trust."

Williams says he began suffering from depression and anxiety after his mother died. He says he found out about her death by reading the newspaper, which caused more heartbreak.

He says there's always been a more defined stigma for Black men and mental health. Many of them not wanting to receive help because they don't want to see incapable, needy, or dependent on others.

However, there are several other factors that influence why the Black community is hesitant to acknowledge their mental health.

Duane Snape, the President and Owner of Chosen For Hope Mental Services says it can be a list of elements including economic insecurities, emotional insecurities, cultural insecurities and more.

But the grim reality for Williams is that he says he's afraid to go out into the real world when the America that he lives in does not respect or value him as a human being.

This is also a similar emotion for Crystal Kitchen, who is a Black woman that also happens to be a licensed mental health professional.

"We're almost walking in this elevated anxiety wherever we go," said Kitchen.

For minorities that have started their mental health journey and began to receive help, many licensed therapists in the Coastal Bend say their clients have a shared preference when it comes to finding the right professional.

Melica Wiley, the co-owner of Youvolve Healing Center says it's important to find someone you feel would resinate with you. This notion goes for any gender, race, background. Most people want a licensed professional where they don't have to have the barriers or guards up. This can be extremely important for healing.

As the push for mental health awareness becomes greater, many people in the Black community are becoming more open minded.

Williams says he believes we're actively working to break generational curses. He encourages everyone to go to therapy and not only find a therapist that works for them, but to be intentional when they're doing the work outside of their sessions.

Many people are beginning to recognize the warning signs and understand that it's okay, not to be okay.

Listed below are several resources from the National Alliance on Mental Health:

Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM)
Group aimed at removing the barriers that Black people experience getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing through education, training, advocacy and the creative arts.

Black Men Heal
Limited and selective free mental health service opportunities for Black men.

Black Mental Health Alliance — (410) 338-2642
Provides information, resources and a “Find a Therapist” locator to connect with a culturally competent mental health professional.

Black Mental Wellness
Provides access to evidence-based information and resources about mental health and behavioral health topics from a Black perspective, as well as training opportunities for students and professionals.

Black Women’s Health Imperative
Organization advancing health equity and social justice for Black women through policy, advocacy, education, research and leadership development.

Melanin and Mental Health
Connects individuals with culturally competent clinicians committed to serving the mental health needs of Black & Latinx/Hispanic communities. Promotes the growth and healing of diverse communities through its website, online directory and events.

Therapy for Black Girls
Online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. Offers listing of mental health professionals across the country who provide high quality, culturally competent services to Black women and girls, an informational podcast and an online support community.

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