Steps To Destigmatize Mental Illness In Black Communities

In Black American communities, people experience greater mental health issues, often compounded by systemic racism, than in White American communities. Yet, in black communities, there remains a stigma surrounding mental health that prevents people from getting help. Treatments such as narrative therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help treat many conditions but are often rejected by black communities. Mental health is still seen as a form of weakness and individuals who seek help may be considered “crazy.”

However, if you are struggling with a mental illness, such as persistent depression, generalized anxiety, or bipolar disorder, the nature of your illness is out of your control. Much like cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s, your illness demands treatment, not stigma. Although the stigma surrounding mental health issues has lessened over the years, more progress needs to be made, particularly within black communities.

If you are struggling with mental health, you can work to destigmatize mental health issues in the following ways.

Educate Yourself

It’s possible that the beliefs of others in your community have affected your perception of mental illness. It is important not to give in to what others think, like viewing mental illness as a form of weakness. Instead, educate yourself on your condition and see it for what it really is. There are countless resources on the internet and books you can check out at the library to become more informed on your specific mental condition. By starting here, you will have taken the first step towards destigmatizing mental illness in black communities.

Get Treatment

It may be difficult to receive treatment, but if you have started researching about your illness, you have taken the first step in realizing you need help. By scheduling an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist, your condition will be diagnosed and steps will be taken to treat it. In general, this is a combination of therapy, prescription medication, and applying what you have learned in therapy to improve your personal life. At Black Minds Matter Psychotherapy, we offer:

  • Integrative brief psychotherapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy
  • Narrative therapy

We offer these forms of treatment and more to bring a new approach to mental wellness.

Talk About Your Mental Health

In black communities, people are more likely to hide their illness because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. You should not isolate yourself from others because of your illness. Instead, you should work to educate them by sharing your own experiences. In turn, you may find that your friends, family members, and other people in your community connect with you and have shared experiences. Additionally, when you hear people saying negative things about mental illness, try to correct them. Let them know how it makes you feel and try to explain to them that this behavior only adds to the stigma within your community. Don’t expect everyone to support and understand you, but some will change and stand by your side.

Join A Support Group

If you cannot rely on or open up to your friends and family, it’s still important to connect with others. Join a support group where you can gain additional resources, listen to others’ stories, share your feelings, and make connections in a safe, nonjudgmental space.

Accept Yourself

Having a mental illness is challenging. There will be days where you feel frustrated or even ashamed that your illness may be holding you back from the life you want to live. Instead of feeling angry, try to channel that energy into productive activities. More than anything, be serious about your treatment, which will include putting in a lot of work to manage your illness.

Contact Black Minds Matter Psychotherapy

Although progress is slow, there is more focus on black mental health than before. There is still a lot that needs to be changed, such as better access to healthcare professionals in black communities. Nevertheless, you can help destigmatize mental illness in your community in the ways outlined in this article, while also getting the treatment you need. For narrative therapy or another form of therapy, contact Black Minds Matter Psychotherapy. Call 415-524-8358 to schedule an appointment.