Breaking the Stigma: Embracing Mental Health Support By: Hope Venetta, MA, LCMHCA, NCC

By | Sep 6, 2023

Hey there, beautiful souls!

I want to talk about something close to my heart – the journey to mental well-being, especially for our Black brothers and sisters who might feel a bit uneasy about seeking therapy. We’re diving into this together because it’s crucial to recognize that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. So, grab a cup of tea, get comfy, and let’s give some validation to the trust issues some of us have with the mental health establishment and that keeps us from seeking therapy when needed.

Our Story: A Historical Perspective

First, let’s acknowledge our shared history. We’ve come a long way, and our ancestors’ strength in the face of unimaginable hardships is a testament to our resilience. But, there are parts of our past that still cast shadows, especially when it comes to trusting mental health professionals. Dr. Patricia Bethea Whitfield wrote a fabulous article in Counseling Today magazine a few years ago. Her article on the reluctance to seek treatment in African Americans reminds us of the deeply flawed beliefs of the past, like “drapetomania,” which labeled an enslaved person’s desire for freedom as a mental illness. Imagine that! We’re talking about a created stigma that pathologized the psychological strength that helped our ancestors break free.

And then there was “dysaethesia aethiopica,” which was supposed to make us ‘sabotage our work’ and ‘become confrontational’ if we had ‘too much freedom.’ These twisted ideas were nothing but cruel tools of oppression made up by people who were supposed to be mental health professionals. So, if you ever feel uneasy about going to therapy, remember, it’s not your fault. These wounds run deep and they have been translated over the decades. In a Columbia University Department of Psychiatry study it was revealed that the adult Black community is 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems, yet only one in three African-Americans who need help actually receive it. We’re still healing from the scars of this history.

Trust

As we dig deeper into this, remember this: there is a reason a Black person may feel reluctance to seek therapy. It’s about trust, and I get that. The history we share, the stigma we face – they’ve built a barrier. The barrier may be there, but we don’t have to remain stuck behind it. We’re breaking it down together, step by step. In recent years more people in the Black community have been more open to have the conversation about mental health.

Seeking therapy isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. It’s saying, “I’m taking control of my well-being.” It’s telling the world, “I’m worth it.”

So, if you’re feeling uneasy about therapy, know that you’re not alone. Many of us have been there, too. It’s okay to take that first step, to reach out for help. In fact, it’s more than okay – it’s brave. You’re not just healing yourself; you’re breaking the cycle for generations to come.

My beautiful friends, let’s embrace this journey together. Seek the support you deserve. The Clinicians of Color therapist locator can help you find a therapist who understands your cultural reservations about trying therapy. As Black people, we’ve got a legacy of strength, resilience, and love that can carry us through anything. So, go ahead, take that step – your well-being is worth it, and you are worth it.

About the Author:

Hope Venetta is a Nationally Certified Counselor with 14 years of experience in the field of mental health continuing education. Currently, Hope serves as an LCMHCA at a private group practice in Durham, NC, where she provides therapy to couples and individuals dealing with a diverse range of presenting issues. You can learn more about Hope at hopevenetta.com/therapy .

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