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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  • JustSayin

    From what Christelyn revels here (and I really commend her for doing so), I feel I can now better understand her blogs. I always felt she suffered with an intense form of self-hatred which she then projects onto Black men and at times Black women. This could indeed manifest itself into depression and anxiety disorders. I even suggested on one of her columns that she needed to seek therapy not knowing her issues at the time.

    I believe it was Malik Yoba who stated that all Black people should seek therapy. I tend to agree. We have had a lot of psychological damage inflicted upon us not only from white people, but unfortunately from our own people, and many are silently suffering.

  • Kim

    No, black people are not afraid of psychologists. They are simply embarrassed to have to admit how self hating they are.

  • Monique

    That's cool I already subcribe to her blog. Any way I have Bipolar depression also and I SUFFERED for a long time before I really buckled down and did something about it. and I is very theraputic to talk about it openly like she said. This article is 100% on point on all the topics I wish the community would be more open about it I think it would solve so many of our problems.

  • Kim Ridley

    I am a Clinical Therapist. I work in program that treats veterans that suffer with PTSD. Ironically, the majority of the veterans are African Americans as well as the therapists. These African American males report feeling a significant level of comfort in our program as opposed to the VA due to being able to interact with others that look like them and understand them culturally.

    • IllyPhilly

      iIthink that's great cuz when I was deployed and seeing that overseas poverty, it was hard for some of the doctors to understand my objections to killing poor people trying to survive and how that was bothering me the most. It was good to have a doctor who actually went through the same thoughts. Not saying that all the black docs grew up poor and had to survive by any means, but they did seem to understand my concern. Keep doing great work!

  • L-Boogie

    Nothing wrong with psychologists.