The Mental Health Stigma in Minority Communities

The stigma around mental health in the black and minority communities remains. Perhaps if we acknowledge that mental health struggles exist, we may eventually feel comfortable enough to implement techniques and utilize our resources to help in a healthy way.

How do you feel? 

This can be a loaded question for more than 50 million Americans who have experienced mental illness in recent years. Mental illness is any health condition involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior (or a combination of these). From multiple personality disorder to common anxiety, even if you feel like you cannot relate, one day you might, and chances are you know someone who does. 

According to a 2020 poll done by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Undefeated, “Across the country, only 6 out of 10 Black adults said they trust doctors to do what is right most of the time, compared with 8 out of 10 white people.”

Growing up, I’ve seen this distrust first hand. My grandfather was hesitant to take medicine prescribed to him by doctors. My father, a military veteran, only trusts his black doctor due to past instances of discrimination.

Charles Bracy described his experience with his black health care provider: “He went through me like a fine-tooth comb. He’s a little more personal than other doctors I’ve had in the past since he follows up with me about testing and results.”

Everyone should have a health care provider who treats them in a caring manner, unaccompanied by dismissiveness so that they feel comfortable enough to seek health care.

If I explored why a large percentage of black people don’t trust doctors, I would be here all day listing historical accounts of racism and unfair treatment of black people in America’s health system. I would go into detail about the terrifying atrocities committed by the U.S. Public Health Service in 1932 during the Tuskegee Experiment, where doctors injected Syphilis disease into 600 black men after offering them free health care resulting in over 128 related deaths.

I could also discuss how the American health system was not built for black people therefore even with health insurance, blacks tend to receive lower-quality health care, but that would be a different article. 

This is about mental health. The American Psychological Association notes that just 4% of therapists and mental health professionals in the U.S. are black. Also, 5% are Hispanic, and another 5% are Asian. Perhaps if there were more therapists of color that minorities could identify with, more would seek a mental health professional. 

I prefer to discuss healing, support and cures. I’m not going to pretend I don’t know people or have people in my family who are dealing with mental health issues. Nor am I going to pretend I haven’t had my own mental struggles. Like many, I do believe that you shouldn’t have to hit rock bottom to work on yourself. 

“The thing that was sent that I thought was going to be there to break me, actually was the thing that could strengthen me and take me even further than I could even fathom for my entire life,” said Tyler Campbell. 

Campbell, a San Diego State graduate turned motivational speaker, guest hosted Chabot College’s President’s Speaker Series for February. Campbell was dealt his fair share of battles as a college student. He was one of the first people to play Division 1 college football while suffering from multiple sclerosis. Campbell received mental health care and despite this diagnosis, overcame his adversities to become an author, radio show host, MS Ambassador and father.

Since the start of the COVID pandemic there has been an increase in conversations about mental health. It’s interesting that many more people are comfortable enough to talk about their struggles with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. We can talk on the phone and explore alternate scenarios but please do consider solutions. Typically things don’t change overnight but take a step. The sources for this story emphasized therapy, counseling, meditation. They suggested that healthy ways to cope such as working out, changing your diet and journaling can be a good place to start. Take the good and implement it, leave the rest. 

“The average person takes about 11 years before they go into therapy. The onset of a mental health disorder generally happens around the adolescent time frame.”

– Valerie Doyle, black therapist and founder of Matters of the Heart Counseling Centers in San Leandro CA

Doyle went on to mention, “Many African Americans go into therapy much later than they should. So many of their symptoms are more severe than if they would’ve gone in when they were having a crisis or they were feeling a little uncomfortable.” Even so, Doyle feels like millennials are more accepting than older generations of therapy as a form of healing.

If you’d rather find a therapist of color that you relate to in order to live to your fullest potential, that’s commendable. If you’d like to make some changes before 11 years of struggling, please do. You never know how implementing those changes could help you in six months, one year, or 10 years from now. 

Dr. Porscha Moore, who oversees the Black Mental Wellness group at Chabot College, has noticed an increase in mental health awareness since the pandemic. Dr. Moore co-facilitated a nationwide Black Mental Wellness space via zoom for Black/African diaspora professionals to connect and be seen. 

Dr. Moore describes, “The Black Mental Wellness group’s primary objective is to build community by strengthening health and wellness strategies to support African/Black diaspora participants as they navigate the effects of systemic oppression, and ongoing institutionalized race-based violence at the intersections of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and other important identity factors.”

Participants in the group engage in thoughtful dialogue and observation to increase connection, empowerment, and self-awareness. 

For all Chabot College students, Dr. Moore highlighted the CARES team: “The CARES Mental health student is one of the resources available to support the mental wellness of students. The CARES team is predominantly staff of color who are fully licensed & trained mental health professionals.”

The CARES department is located in building 2300 on the 2nd floor. The therapy sessions are provided Monday to Saturday at varying times in-person and online. Students can find the schedule for walk-in virtual and in-person sessions on the Chabot College website under mental health services. 

We are capable of breaking generational curses of substance abuse, anger, violence, and depression. Take a step in the right direction. Whether you’re doing it for your family, friends, or most importantly, yourself, explore your options no matter what you’re going through.

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