Mental health is vital to how we feel about ourselves and our community. Finding a counselor or life coach can be daunting and the recent pandemic, as well as racially charged debates, have cast in stark relief the racial inequality and disproportionate coverage communities of color face when seeking mental health services in this country. To care for our families, to organize and live as a community, requires unencumbered freedom to seek out mental healthcare.
However, there have been historical, racial, and social barriers that have left black and Latinx communities without equal access to mental health services. Racial trauma inflicted upon our communities takes many forms and often people suffer in the dark, unable, or unwilling to seek the help they need. These traumas can unfold due to many unjust policies and practices including police brutality, immigration concerns, systemic discrimination in academic and legislative bodies, and everyday occurrences that diminish and invalidate people’s legitimate mental health concerns.
In order to move the fight for racial justice forward and into the light of knowledge and healing we need to care for ourselves and our communities first. Often mental health services are not created with cultural and social nuances and particulars in mind. At HBH in Massachusetts, our licensed and caring therapists and counselors will work with you to hear your story and your history. Online counseling is crucial in these difficult times and can provide you with goal-oriented care so you can overcome depression, fatigue, self-esteem issues, hopelessness, anxiety, and an array of other concerns that are deserving of care and attention.
Racial discrimination and where it exists in society
Racial discrimination is prejudice visited upon a group of people. This can take the form of exclusion, slander, intimidation, and physical violence. Prejudice is the pre-judgment of people based on race and social grouping. It has a profound effect on the mental and physical well-being of individuals. It often begins when we are very young and continues through life, taking many forms. As mentioned, one of the main reasons it interferes with people’s ability to seek care is because it is so thoroughly deep-rooted in many, if not all, of our social institutions.
Seeking mental health advice may be difficult within communities of color not merely because of lack of services and inadequate funding, but also because, as a society, we often tell people to ‘tough it out’ or ‘go it alone.’ These mentalities of isolation are rooted in the dismissal of people and their cultures and do not help us address our mental healthcare needs, making us feel unvalued and aimless in our pursuits. Some places in society where discrimination manifests are:
- In our schools; The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released data from 2014 showing black students are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of their white counterparts.
- Our media sources; like TV and cable news, often exclude or distort positive representations of people of color
- Our places of work; many businesses maintain racial discrimination through daily and uncheck practices of harassment and microaggressions.
- Prison incarcerate rates; data from The Pew Research Center shows black Americans make up 13% of the total U.S population but account for a 33% share of prison populations. Conversely, white Americans make up 64% of the total U.S population and account for 30% of prison populations.
What is the history of mental healthcare within Black and Latinx communities?
During the founding of America, there was widespread approval, through ingrained mentalities, for reasons why people of color were not to be considered for legal and social statuses. Blatant refusal to offer mental health care to communities of color has been internalized by these communities and only clouds the dialogue and reinforces stigmas. These disparities have historical roots and shouldn’t be ignored.
Intersectionality also contributes to the way communities of color can access mental healthcare. Recent studies encompassing black women have shown they are twice as likely as white women not to reach out to a mental health provider when experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Families dealing with immigration services have also been meeting with dismissal and apathy from health institutions on state and federal levels.
Does systemic racism affect mental health?
In short, yes. It can be difficult to activate oneself to seek help if everywhere you are told that you aren’t worth it. People who are seeking mental health services are often already in a vulnerable state. We all balance so many professional and social responsibilities it can be hard to make the first step and contact an online counselor or speak with a therapist. Representation matters in this respect and engaging with a counselor of color, who may be able to relate to specific stressors that manifest directly because of racial discrimination, can be a step that offers new peace and clarity in your life. Our counselors in Western MA and the greater Boston area can help you:
- Feel validated in seeking mental health care and guide you towards becoming more comfortable with the idea that you are loved and deserving of care
- Sort through the confusion and confusing thoughts that are preventing you from more fully partaking in life
- Combat feelings of helplessness, distrust, fear, and guilt
- Confront anxiety and depression and learn methods to overcome them
How does stigma concerning mental health affect the communities of color?
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey which reported that, compared with young white teenagers, black high-school-age teenagers are more likely to have seriously contemplated suicide and made suicide attempts that then required medical attention. This is an important fact to consider when we discuss how stigma alters the ways in which young black men and women seek mental health services. When we relegate our young learners to peripheral positions in society and mark their normal behavior as criminal a spiral of feelings of confusion, mistrust, and low self-worth begin to take hold. If you are of the impression that your life doesn’t matter, if you see this idea constantly reinforced in your own country, if your parents also slightly suffer, then it can be particularly difficult to know when and where to seek mental health services.
At HBH we offer culturally sensitive care that is anonymous and discreet and focuses on your needs as an individual and as a member of a society that often neglects and shuts out people of color. We are accessible in our Amherst, Franklin, West Springfield and Wilbraham locations and our counselors look forward to speaking with you, on issues big and small, social and personal. Book an appointment online or call to reach out to a professional therapist or counselor. We look forward to hearing from you.