Mental Health Myths: On being “Okay,” Broke, and Black
It seems that with the start of the New Year, ALL the folk, especially Black Women, are more aware of their mental health. Even with all this supposed awareness, people aren’t sure what they are looking for or seem to be unclear on what “Mental Health” constitutes. Things people commonly say about therapy to me includes: “My problem isn’t important enough to speak to a therapist about” or “I don’t want to take up time from someone who *REALLY* needs therapy” or “I’m Black. Therapy is for white people.” This way of thinking and speaking allows people of color to talk themselves (and their loved ones) out of therapy before they have truly considered it. Let’s spend some time speaking about 3 Mental Health Myths. Then maybe we can have some honest discussion about our needs.
Myth/Thought 1: My problem isn’t important enough to speak to someone
So, you are “okay” or “fine.” Things are hard but not “I need therapy” hard. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?? All “problems” and issues are relative. We are constantly trying to check ourselves and one another for what we need/want help with. Think about it this way, would you tell someone with a toothache that occurs only when they eat that they don’t need to see a dentist? Is the person who has a constant toothache more in need than them? What about a person who had all their teeth knocked out? We can and do a great job of comparing our individual pain to the pain of others. The problem is we forget that it is still PAIN! Seeking help for your pain doesn’t mean that you are more or less important than someone else. It means that you are ALSO important and YOUR PAIN MATTERS! Of course you can go it alone, but there are lots of therapists, both of color and white, to see you. As long as you matter to yourself, even marginally, what you are experiencing will be important to a therapist/counselor as well.
No, I am not going to debrief the myth on “I don’t want to take up time from someone who may need therapy more than me” because it is really covered under the first myth. Your problem, issue, challenge, or pre-occupation is important. If it is important to you, it matters. All you need is the right therapist who also agrees. Think about this, compared to someone suffering from severe depression, some folks would say that sexuality or sex lives don’t matter. I would (not so) humbly disagree, as would a whole lot of other sex and relationship therapists and educators I know.
Myth/Thought 2: I can’t afford therapy
You can! The better question here is “do you want to afford therapy?” There are many therapists in private practice, including myself, who may not take insurance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t afford therapy. Therapy can cost up to $250 per session, and that can feel super expensive. But are you worth it? Is your peace of mind worth the price tag? Many therapists not only take insurance, which can help with the out of pocket costs, but also offer a superbill or sliding scale. A superbill is like a receipt you can submit to your insurance company to be reimbursed. A sliding scale means that you can get a whole new price just based on your income. If those don’t work, you can also go bi-weekly instead of every week to offset the cost. You can see if your therapist will give you half an hour at maybe half the cost. It’s gonna take some doing on your part to work out the money, but you can afford it (if it’s important to you).
Quick Tip: If you sign up for An Open Path, you can find therapists who offer therapy for between $30-$50! Yours truly is also listed on this website, though I max out at a certain number of participants.
Myth/Thought 3: I’m Black. Therapy is for White People.
If I had a dollar every time someone told me this, I could retire with frequent traveling to Nigeria to see my family. The idea that therapy is a “white people thing” is a lie! Should I type that again? BLACK FOLK NEED THERAPY TOO! Sometimes I wonder if white people live longer BECAUSE they seek therapy. We Black people talk about how “Black don’t crack” but fail to keep in mind that while we look lovely and whole on the outside, we are sick and breaking down on the inside. We have to take care of our mental health. Being born, growing up, or otherwise paying attention to these United States is HARD for people of color! Especially for Black people. Especially now, under President Cheeto! Dealing with racism, sexism, colorism, texturism, not to mention poverty, redlining, the prison industrial system, lack of representation, prejudice from other people of color, etc. is EXHAUSTING! Yes, you can go to church, but you can (and should) go to therapy, TOO! Services like Dr. Joy Harden’s Therapy for Black Girls, make it so much easier to find a therapist who may understand your experience, without necessarily having to come out of your African American Vernacular, or translate. For example, some Black therapists have spoken about how the Black folk they see are happy to have someone understand what a Becky is without further explanation.
I focus in on Black people, but specifically Black women in the Washington D.C. Metro area. WHY? Because intersectionality matters! Being Black is a difficult privilege, but being a woman too?! Sexualized prejudice and racism are literally killing Black women. Add into being Black and woman identifying yourself on the LGBTQIA spectrum, or having darker skin, or having curlier/coiler hair or anything else that takes you from the “ideal.” It gets that much harder. I am a Black Sex Therapist. I couldn’t even exist in a way that allows me to focus on Black people, if there were not Black people who were looking for Sex Therapists who are of color. Think about that!
The Doc’s Recommendation: Get the therapy or help you need. Dealing with depression, anxiety, relationship issues, sex(uality), family, self confidence, self acceptance, perinatal, financial, eating, sleeping, panic, hair and beauty, overspending, etc. is hard. Your mental wellbeing is ESSENTIAL. Let’s be the generation that ends the stigma on therapy, and allows Black folk, and PoC to finally free themselves and reclaim our mental health. It’s (past) time.
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