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Addressing The Shame, I Need Help With My Mental Health 

Addressing The Shame, I Need Help With My Mental Health

Mental health disorders have no boundaries when it comes to their victims, so why do we put up walls when it comes to seeking help? Too often, women of color have battled their way through mental illness on their own, all to live up to the idea of being a strong black woman. Too often have they tried to handle it on their own due to the stigma associated with receiving treatment like psychotherapy. Not often enough do we take our psychological and emotional wellbeing into our own hands nor have enough confidence to seek out that assistance so that we may be our best selves.

The Stigma Of Seeking Help

It is evident that there exists cultural expectations for women of color to always be strong and that getting help from mental health professionals makes you “crazy”, or weak. Women are over-represented in both the diagnosed and undiagnosed mental health populations. In fact, Black women are especially at risk due to issues they face on a systemic level, such as racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. Furthermore, they are predisposed to being underemployed, holding multiple jobs, and being the primary caregiver in the families, all while living in disreputable areas.

The reality is that anyone can be affected by mental illnesses but only a few people utilize mental health services to address them. In a recent article, Erlanger Turner mentions that resistance from seeking help is even greater among Black and Hispanic communities, and that medication is often the first option of treatment rather than psychotherapy or counseling. Approximately half of the people in the United States alone suffer from at least one diagnosable mental illness during their lifetime, but it should be noted that only 50% of these people will ever seek treatment for it.

Mental health patients are one of the most stigmatized groups in society and when the color of one’s skin is factored into that, the stigma doubles. People refuse to open up in fear that they will lose relationships, jobs, friends, and family. They are afraid there will be no support for them. About 60% of people still believe that persons diagnosed with mental illness are violent. They hesitate to employ them, let alone welcome them into their homes. Much of the stigma comes from how psychological disorders are perceived in the media, which typically focuses on the mental health status of individuals who commit mass shootings, infanticide, and suicide, for instance. The stigma breeds shame and silence, with people often waiting until over a decade after symptoms become apparent to actually seek help for fear of being judged.

How Do Mental Health Conditions Affect Millennial Women of Color

We’ve established that problems related to mental health can affect anyone at any point in time. Women of color, however, may undergo more drastic experiences because of barriers to mental health care such as the lack of financial resources, lack of mental health education and awareness in their community, stigma, racial discrimination and, believe it or not, a lack of mental health professionals. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Black Americans are 20% more likely to have serious psychological distress than the general population. The most common psychological disorders in the black community are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. In fact, the study found that in only a year, nearly five out of one hundred African American women were diagnosed with depression which is similar to the average for white women.

Getting The Help That You Need

One of the largest, and probably the most basic, barriers to Black women being officially diagnosed is their failure to realize that there is help out there. There is a tendency to believe that pain and struggle are normal, so it’s usually hard for them to realize that something is wrong. On the other hand, there may be a misinterpretation of what mental health is, as the topic is usually taboo in Black communities and other communities of color. Therefore, many women are afraid to discuss mental health issues and refuse to get treatment because they have internalized the stigma. Awareness begins with information.

We need to understand that having mental health issues does not make us crazy and that getting help will allow us to maintain a firmer grasp on our lives. If you are like any other human out there, you probably have some thoughts that may make taking your health into your own hands seem a little daunting. Mental illness cannot be fought alone, no matter how strong of a Black woman you are. It takes a village, a network of support. It’s easy to believe that the support does not exist, but the truth is there are people out there, just like you, fighting the same battle and there are always others willing to help. It is in your best interest to find that non-judgmental, compassionate help.

There is no shame in seeking help. Getting better starts with you. Self- awareness is salient and allows you to realize what triggers your illness. When you identify those triggers, it makes it easier for you to manage them. Recovery, however, goes beyond self-awareness and self-care. Therapy goes a far way and it definitely does not make you weak, despite popular belief. Therapy provides several methods to achieve a more emotionally stable life. Your therapist, or another mental health professional, should be someone you can trust and are able to talk to. They should be able to motivate you, empower you,  and develop evidence-based treatment plans that help you recover. It is also important to find the right mental health professional who will recognize and understand your culture, in order to align it with treatment. A lack of cultural competence can result in misdiagnosis or incorrect treatments.

It’s time to ditch the labels. We make it our priority to get help when our bodies get sick, so why be ashamed of seeking help when our minds do? Sharing your issues is actually a sign of strength, not weakness and there is always someone out there willing to assist. If you have a mental illness, remember that you are not broken or damaged. Recovery is possible and you should be proud of taking the steps necessary to achieve it.

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