Home Men Benefits of Counseling & Therapy For African-Americans

Benefits of Counseling & Therapy For African-Americans

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Silence, stigma, discrimination and shame shroud many things in the Black community; particularly, mental health awareness. I know I like to handle things myself.  After all, who knows you better than yourself? However, there is nothing like having an unbiased, open ear to the story of your life. There is power in utilizing the services of individual, couples, and family counseling. Some quick facts noted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health:

–          The death rate from suicide for African American men almost four times that for African American women in 2009.

–          African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites

Silence can be quite harmful to any individual or group. There are countless stories that have been revealed about women, men, boys, and girls who have experienced abuse, sexual assault, extreme depression, life threatening illnesses, and many other things that can often go unnoticed. Not addressing it can lead to even greater consequences. It doesn’t always have to end in death, but can also be a lifetime of pain.

There are also stigmas and discrimination attached to seeing a therapist or a counselor. Poverty is factor that can predispose someone to mental issues, but the “middle-class” and “upper-class” are not immune to the same experiences. No level of income will protect you from struggles that life throws at you. Most recently, Yusuf Neville, a graduate of Hampton University committed suicide. Many questions are asked, and few answers given in acts of suicide. The truth will always remain with those we lose. So we celebrate their life, but are reminded to always inquire with those we love and come into contact with.

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It is hard being open and honest with others. Exposing your struggles and being vulnerable is never an easy task.  It is necessary, because it empowers others to know that they are not facing their battles alone. There is no need to be ashamed of what you have been through, for it is your own personal experience. I do know there is freedom in changing your own narrative, because there are many people who have proven that through their own testimonies.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported, “African Americans tend to rely on family, religious and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though this may at times be necessary.” It’s great to have honest family and friends who can keep it real with you, but an unbiased opinion from someone who has professional experience dealing with mental health issues can be incredibly rewarding. It is reassuring to see change within your lifetime. For example, I am proud to be a member of an African-American Baptist church in Harlem, NYC that has a counselor on staff, offering their services for free.

In relationships, we often bring our own baggage, heartache, scars, and secrets. Take for example, a guy who, when in a relationship has other women on the side. Some may say he likes to have his cake and eat it too, but on a deeper level he could have issues with loneliness or abandonment. Woman after woman could label him as a dog, but it takes a concerned woman to recommend counseling. The follow through comes with the man actually committing to it, and realizing that the loneliness and abandonment issues may stem from the loss of his father at such a young age. We have to be available as family, friends, and partners to come from a place of love. Leave judgment to the court rooms. We have to listen twice as much as we speak and lead with compassion.

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For more information, a great place to start is the National Institute of Mental Health (www.nimh.nih.gov). State and local resources will vary, but they are available.

Has a therapist or counselor helped with your own relationships?

Comment(9)

  1. I'm with Pops. Not only am I an advocate for counseling, but I have bi-weekly counseling sessions to this day.

    I think part of the issue is the term, mental illness. Mental illness is not the only reason to seek counseling. I don't have a mental illness, but I do have flaws…we all do! I initially went to counseling because I realized that my inability to trust or be vulnerable to people was a hinderance for me. Life gave me LOTS of reasons to only depend on a few people. When I found myself in a situation that I found unpleasant because this issue, I sought help to work through it. It's been a 2-yr journey of healing and growth that I wouldn't trade for anything. The peace that I have now is priceless to me.

    Stinking thinking can be just as destructive as mental illness. Having someone to help you sort through your thoughts/beliefs so that you can determine which are good for you now and which you need to let go of can literally transform your life. #witness

    1. Therapy has been huge for me so far. I started going to sessions for the same reasons as you. I didn't think I had a mental illness, but I knew that I had deep-rooted flaws in my thinking that I couldn't work through myself (vulnerability being one of them). I was stagnant and hindering the growth of a lot of my relationships. It took a year and some change to muster the courage to go and I'm so glad I did.

  2. I think for black men, we become so good at lying about our emotionality to protect our egos. Then the pressure of "I'm fine, everything's good" when it's really not causes us to break. It doesn't matter that a young man came from a good family, had great friends, and a supportive girlfriend/wife. Something w/in him got tired of the lying you know? The disconnect between black men (and women to some extent) and therapy is it's associated w/ you having some type of legitimate mental health issue. When honestly, we need that 1hr sometimes to get it all out w/ no judgement.

    It's great that your church offers free counseling services. A lot of churches do. People just don't seek them out. I think it's also important for people to admit that prayer and your relationship w/ God isn't the end-all answer. Prayer w/out you doing some work on your own is useless.
    My recent post Valentine’s Day Is D-Day For New Relationships

  3. Thank you so much for that article!! More of us need to hear and apply this. I am currently in treatment due to struggles with depression. I had a nervous breakdown back in Oct. that led to me having serious suicidal thoughts. At first I was ashamed, but after a few sessions, I'm beginning to learn more about my emotional foundation and how its shaped me. Our community needs more awareness on this because in today's "survival of the fittest" motif, we tend to shun those who struggle, or even worse think that all they need is fixing or "tough love." My new insurance carrier isn't as keen on this issue so I'm having to rework my finances to keep going to sessions, but I know that I am and will be better because of my willingness to accept professional assistance. Much love to all my brothers/sisters who are in this struggle as well YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!

  4. So glad this article was posted! I’ve never been ashamed to seek counseling. When I was a freshman in college I sought counseling to help me deal with my destructive thoughts. I unfortunately couldn’t continue going because they couldn’t accommodate all of the students but that one session at least helped me to know that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts and gave me techniques to try!
    When I am able, I am definitely going to go to a counselor again. It’s just good practice.

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