By Jaila Marie
As a woman living with bipolar disorder and anxiety, my journey with therapy began at an early age.
I was 11-years-old the first time my mother hauled me off to a therapist. My therapist was an elderly white woman whom I initially felt no connection with. I didn’t believe I needed to be there, so I was reluctant to open up to her. Eventually, I let down my guard and cried puddles while confessing my feelings. At such a young age, I was depressed.
Over the years I’ve lost track of how many therapists have come and gone in my life. I’ve skipped appointments and showed up on time. I’ve had therapists I strongly disliked, felt no connection with, and therapists I loved. I spent time in denial thinking maybe I could manage my mental illnesses and heal from past trauma without therapy, but now that I’m more aware, I know I can’t. I know that therapy is okay, and it can be beneficial.
While there’s an overall stigma surrounding mental health and therapy, I believe it’s more significant in the Black community.
Many Black people grew up in households where things like depression and anxiety weren’t discussed. It was swept under the rug and in some cases, we were told to just pray about it. While praying can be beneficial, when your mental health is deteriorating, sometimes you need more. Mental health and mental illness are often misunderstood, and many families aren’t educated on what it is and what it isn’t. The same goes for therapy. Needing therapy isn’t something to be ashamed of nor is it for “crazy” people.
I’ve spoken to individuals who were told growing up, “What happens in this family, stays in this family.” Which means if they were struggling, therapy wasn’t an option. I think Black people are afraid to seek therapy not only because of stigma but also out of fear of judgement. We fear judgement from family and friends, and we wonder if we will be judged by the stranger sitting across from us. If this is holding you back, remember regardless of what others think, you’re doing this for you.
A few other reasons we might not seek therapy is due to the cost of therapy and religious beliefs.
Here are some statistics on the Black community and therapy:
- Black people are 20 percent more likely to experience mental health problems compared to the rest of the population.
- 25 percent of Black people seek treatment for a mental health issue while 40 percent of white individuals seek treatment. Some of the reasons why people in the Black community are less likely to seek treatment include: lack of Black mental health professionals, misdiagnosis, socioeconomic factors, distrust of the health care system and absence of insurance.
- Compared to white people, Black teens are less likely to die by suicide but more likely to attempt suicide.
I’m an advocate for therapy and mental health because I have firsthand experience with it. I know both the pros and cons and I believe sharing my personal journey will enlighten and help others.
My journey has been shaky, but I’ve finally found a therapist I like. For me, it was important I have a Black woman therapist because I know there are certain topics I’ll eventually want to discuss. More important than this, is that I feel a connection and that I’m comfortable. When you’re seeking help, you want someone who you feel you can be vulnerable with. While a therapist is trained to do what they do, this doesn’t always guarantee they’ll be the right match for you. In my case, going from therapist to therapist became discouraging but I didn’t give up.
If you’re currently looking for therapy in Indianapolis, here are some options that might help:
Christian Technological Seminary Counseling Center – 317-924-5205
Midtown Community Mental Health – 317-941-5003
Healing Pathways Counseling & Consulting LLC – 317-509-5727
Families First Indiana – 317-634-6341
Jaila Marie is a freelance writer from Indianapolis who blogs at itsjaimarie.wordpress.com. Are you a freelance writer or blogger? To share your story with Heartbeat Indy email firstname.lastname@example.org.