Racial Identity and Mental Health in Amherst, MA
Everyone is susceptible to depression, fatigue, unproductive habits, and unexpected trauma, to name a few, and there are unique issues that communities of color face. Black Americans who suffer from mental illness are often excluded, due to these socially interwoven constructs, from ascertaining therapists, life-coaches, online counselors, and other forms of mental wellness counselling. What discriminating social barricades prevent people of color from accessing basic health services? How does identity affect our chances of receiving services like counselling and therapy? How does stigma affect one’s ability to seek out therapy when they need it?
Our therapists reflect the diversity of our community. It matters that therapists of color are able to share in their client’s unique experiences and discuss matters of racial trauma, police brutality, social unrest, and an array of other obstacles. Our therapists of color at Amherst Thriveworks can help you navigate your world and develop positive mentalities of growth and purpose by offering counselling with ears and hearts open when it comes to addressing racial, social and personal concerns. We work hard to unlock your drive and happiness in a painful time and will always affirm and nurture your personal identities and multifaceted histories.
Fighting for racial justice and moving toward a more perfect union requires healthy minds and hearts. The Black Lives Matter movement for peace and justice and the Coronavirus pandemic have cast in stark relief the inequities communities of color face. Black Americans and all people of color are disproportionally affected when it comes to health care, and mental health is no exception.
Does racial discrimination in society effect mental health?
Racial discrimination and its effects on mental health begin in childhood and continue through
all stages of life. We can define racial discrimination as actions taken toward a group of people based on being pre-judged based on their social group. These actions unfold in society all around us and can take the form of exclusion, threats, slander and physical violence. A few examples where discrimination based on race manifests in society are:
- Black students are often assumed to be beyond help or purposefully difficult. Clothing and vernaculars and other aspects of identity are routinely policed, instilling in our young learners of color a belief that they are ‘outside’ of the norm.
- Our movies, TV shows, social media platforms and national conversations continue to stamp our black youth with negative racial stereotypes that embed themselves and become internalized.
- Authority figures like police are mistrusted within communities of color because of repeated instances of injustice.
Today suicide rates in black children, ages 5-11, have swelled solidly since the 1980s and are now double those of white children the same age. The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender also plays a huge role in how people of color receive mental health services. To be both lower income and black in America presents challenges unique to that overlapping. Similarly, black women, especially young black women, are twice as likely not to seek mental health care than their white counterparts.
Does racial bias influence access to mental health services?
Negative cultural biases toward black Americans and their mental health anxieties work against people of color when seeking therapy and guidance. A person’s ability to see themselves as deserving of mental health care is diminished when they are constantly surrounded by images, words and sentiments that persuade them to ‘tough it out,’ or ignore their wants and needs. Our therapists at Thriveworks Amherst will work to:
- Offer validation for your concerns; no concern is too small, no fear undeserving of exploration
- Help with confusing thoughts that may tell you not to worry about your mental health
- Combat hopelessness, frustration and distrust
- Discuss the nature of your depression and ways to conquer it
Do mental health stigmas in the black community influence access to care?
The popular and shared American ideology of individualism comes into play when we look at how stigma towards seeking mental health care within communities of color has developed. Americans value expressions like ‘go it alone,’ ‘carry the weight,’ ‘be a man,’ and a host of other limited and vague sentiments that are not particularly helpful when trying to heal something as serious as your mental health. For men, and men of color in particular, suffering often unfolds out of sight. This stigma of silent suffering is reinforced not only by the belief that men should hide their emotions, but also by a historical distrust of federal and state medical programs and documented unethical practices within the medical community visited upon the black community. Fears of mistreatment, improper diagnosis and outright abuse are therefore not unfounded and should be treated as such. The harmony of many voices in a community can be strengthened when we encourage each other to address mental anxieties.
What are some benefits of therapy and counseling for people of color?
Therapy and counseling can offer people of color who may be hurting a chance to talk and move forward. We are living through a time that sorely lacks in genuine and deep discussion. Our therapists and counselors of color at Thriveworks Amherst can offer culturally sensitive care that is accessible and discreet. Sometimes a safe space isn’t just our bedroom or favorite park, it is a person who can listen and process your concerns and propose a self-care plan that fits you. Small things add up and your mental health is worth your attention. Book an appointment online to speak with our licensed therapists!