Are Black People Afraid of Psychologists?

October 6, 2011  |  

I’m pretty open and honest about disclosing my depression and general anxiety disorder. Why not? I’ve had it my entire adult life, and will probably have it when I leave this earth.

Despite family members quizzing me about how many times I pray and read The Bible, or suggesting I  just “be strong and suck it up,” I sought help, because I knew that sleeping on the couch for an entire weekend crying over a  Bug’s Bunny cartoon or having panic attacks and heart palpitations was definitively NOT normal. As a health writer, I was also painfully aware of the long-term physical toll anxiety could have on my body (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, chronic fatigue). I got the help I needed, and…SURPRISE!  The world didn’t end, and I didn’t die. In spite of the diagnosis, I am a functioning human being–a wife, a mother, and a writer with a book deal and a not-so-shabby blog gig.

Following in the footsteps of blogger goddess, Daniel Belton, I came clean about my chronic condition in order to destigmatize it within my community. I have family members who are clearly suffering, but refuse to seek help outside of prayer and the church. As a result, we all suffer.

So are black people afraid of psychologists and psychiatrists?

Well, yes. And…not necessarily.

“African-Americans have historically stigmatized mental illness, but a lot of it is lack of access,” says Belton who is currently blogging and writing a book about her journey in accepting and successfully treating her bipolar disorder.

Linda Young, PhD, an African-American psychologist, believes that some of the hesitancy black people experience in seeking therapy may also be attributed to them having trouble finding caregivers who “look like them” and can understand their unique experiences navigating as a minority in America, but once they are made aware of the resources, they are amenable to using them.

She points to a recent study that seems to indicate that blacks are more enthusiastic about seeking help when they see others do it. “African-American race-ethnicity was a significant independent predictor of greater reported willingness to seek treatment and lesser reported embarrassment if others found out about being in treatment,” concluded the authors and researchers of “Race-Ethnicity as a Predictor of Attitudes Toward Mental Health Treatment Seeking.”

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