Blacks and Mental Health

BY: Dr. Brian Turner

As a psychologist I am shocked at the reluctance of people to seek help for psychological distress. I have read the studies, researched the history. Daily I fight to overcome – not just the stigma of psychological and medical diagnoses that have negatively impacted the Black community – but also to champion mental health wellbeing.

Let’s face it; being stigmatized as “crazy” in the Black community is a serious issue! However, it is time to recognize the benefits of seeking mental health support. In order to help heal some of our problems as a community, seeking professional help is not only a real option – but the APPROPRIATE action!

The reality for many Blacks is that mental health illness could be the ultimate negative marker. Images of Black people jailed, killed, and locked away in psychological institutions makes seeking help from mental health professionals an unlikely option. African- Americans have been misdiagnosed, mistreated, and over diagnosed with psychiatric disorders that only add to the fears of mental healthcare.

The result of not being able to trust professionals to provide help leaves people with nowhere to turn but inward. They begin to hate each other, their families, the people who they expect to protect them and eventually, they hate themselves.

Many of our people are victimized in our churches, schools, and our own homes. The history of discrimination and the fear of being labeled crazy keep many people from seeking the help needed to address the trauma they experience. Barbershops, salons, clubs, churches, and front porches are where many of us have received guidance. But now is the time where we many wont to reconsider this.

While some may not know, the reality is that Black people have been practitioners of mental healthcare dating back to Ancient Kemet – meaning Africa!

The first physician, Imhotep, an Egyptian, was innovative in the treatments of his day. Today’s mental health professionals are doing the same to right the wrongs of the past. For example, it was two psychologists whose research greatly influenced the Supreme Court in ‘Brown vs. The Board of Education’ which overturned the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine in American schools.

Today’s mental healthcare professionals are more informed to address issues that are related to culture because of better training and greater emphasis on cultural sensitivity.

Africans, African-Americans and other culturally aware professionals have been fighting to fix the system for as long as the system has been ill.

While I love my work – helping people heal is my goal – I plead for us all to take a look at ourselves, our family, and our community. If someone needs help or is getting help, encourage and support them to live a healthy life. Let’s face it, being labeled crazy in the Black community is funny until someone gets locked away, jailed, or killed… then it’s not, and we all bow our heads in shame.

Dr. Brian Turner is a
Licensed Psychologist

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