Mentally speaking why would any member of the black community go to a white mental health professional, given the narrative that white people have enslaved us, caused us grief and now wants to send us back to Africa? It doesn’t seem logical ascertaining the race of individuals that played a major role in the development of these mental health issues in the first place. Right? Although, this may not be common theology of an individual seeking help with his relationship, social disparities, depression or anxiety; it is however part of the “Trusting in the System” narrative that keeps hurting individuals silent about their pain.
Why would anyone go to the bully and abuser to get help with his problems? You can’t classify all Caucasian mental health professionals as non-trustworthy because that would be a gross understatement; but untreated mental illness has a way of perpetuating social dysfunction and other problems such as having babies out of wedlock, divorce, unemployment and suicide let alone diabetes and other heart ailments that derail the livelihoods of Black Americans. We need more research that speaks to the “Mental Health in Black Men” arena, and a greater dialogue concerning African American mental health professionals who can contribute open spaces for the necessary transformation that is needed. Below, you will find 7 ways mental health issues are secretly being swept under the rug by “Black Men” in general.
1. Mistrust of providers: Dating back to slavery and with the infamous syphilis experimentation, it’s easy to see why black men wouldn’t trust any type of health professionals. Time in this instance doesn’t heal all wounds. There will forever be an uneasiness when it comes to us subjecting our minds to the help of anyone that looks like the individuals that enslaved us in the first place. That thorn is there. Even in we are brother and Sisters in Christ and where color may not matter, the thorn is still there.
2. Fear of the Unknown: If you have never visited a Mental Health Professional, they take down lots of information about you and your payment information, which is an intake form. Depending on what website you may have booked that service you should be able to see the interior and or the person that is likely to counsel you. As simple as this sounds this process varies depending on where you are likely to get help from. Most black men don’t want these few moments of vulnerability to count against them. We don’t have the luxury of running around talking to any counselor that will listen a black man speak his truth. Not Happening! Again, there are a lot of unknowns even if you are educated about the entire process.
3. Financial Constraints: Just for a moment lets set aside insurance which can come in the form of Medicaid or Medicare, or other private insurance panels like “Aetna, BlueCross Blue Shield and Human etc.” Out of pocket costs can range from $50 – $150 an hour depending on what state, city or locale you reside. Again, it is not about the money for some but more about being in an environment where an individual can relate to his mental health professional on some level. Also, most people may not take into consideration the 10+ years of preparation it usually takes to become a successful therapist. Thus, may only feel $25 or $30 is worth seeing a mental health professional versus $50- $150 an hour.
4. Fear of what people may think: Although, most black men won’t admit it “pride” plays a major role in rejecting mental health treatment. To certain friends or family members it’s important to show ourselves as competent and mentally sound. It’s not a badge of honor to be running around letting people know that you are seeing a therapist twice a month. Court appointed is a different scenario. However, I am only referencing those who may reject help based on their own insecurities and not the entire black male population as a whole.
5. It’s just not a priority: When you think of all the things going on in the Black Community, America, Black Families, Economic Struggles, student loan debt, children to raise, and the like it just doesn’t come off as something on the to do list. If you are in the middle of a 12 round Heavy Weight Knock out prize fight with Deontay Wilder, you just can pause in the middle of round 5 and seek mental and then get back in the fight. Battles are constantly raging in the spiritual, physical, mental and economic domains of a black man to pause for help. I didn’t say pause for introspection and self-reflection but a narrative that seeks help from the same mind that helped to create the conflict in the first place.
6. Preconceived Notions: The first thing any mental health professional will do when a black man walks into their office for counseling is see all the negative stereotypes that comes with the race as a whole concerning black men. The media has given the black men such a black eye these last 100 years and so it’s hard to see anything else. I don’t care if a Rich Black Man walks in to get help, he is Still “A Nigga”. Like Jay Z said in the “Story of O.J. concerning his 4:44 album “O.J. like, “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” …okay.
7. Stigmas: Sitting in a closed off room with a box of Kleenex spilling your life story to a mental health professional who you really don’t know that well, seems asinine definitely if someone is paying $100 for fifty minutes to do so. The narrative surrounding mental health professional concerning a black man’s struggle is a “Specialized Niche”, in which that professional has to understand how to find these types of private and vulnerable individuals. So, no we are not just going to waltz up into any” Shrink” and just start spilling personal tea. Not Happening! That’s why to most black men therapy hasn’t even been an option because you have God, Religion, Drinks, Drugs, Sex, Basketball, Friends, and those who have held them down in the struggle. Counseling comes in on this round about 8th -9th place.
In the end we will never walk into a situation that leaves us vulnerable and exposed. Since, the syphilis experiment of the Tuskegee study we haven’t quite settled in to trusting those that have oppressed us for 400 years. The cat is out of the bag. The reason why black men sweep these pressing issues under the rug is because it takes time to work through past wounds that haven’t been healed yet. We have forgiven and moved on into greater heights and depths of our calling, while at the same time finding a means for improving our own Mental condition. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you are needing help just remember you are not alone and there is support for your situation. Sweeping your mental issues under the rug is the same as placing it on the top shelf. Soon, you will be able to reach up grab it and find a safe place to explore your mental elevation.