It is obviously not fair to generalize about any group of people but it is hard to ignore the number of people that avoid psychotherapy in the Black community. While there are many Black people who are smart, educated and accomplished and have no problem affording therapy, you still find that many people will avoid it like the plague!
When asked, some people will joke that they believe that if you need to see a “shrink, ” then it must be because you’re “crazy”. Some people will say that therapy just feels like sitting around complaining about your problems instead of getting up and solving them.
According to Monnica Williams, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of Louisville, the following are the issues behind African Americans being reluctant to make use of psychology’s solutions to emotional hurdles:
Stigma and judgment
In places like Los Angeles and New York, everyone and their pet has a therapist, yet even among the wealthy and elite, many African Americans continue to hold stigmatizing beliefs about mental illness. For example, a qualitative study by Alvidrez et al., (2008) found that among Blacks who were already mental health consumers, over a third felt that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. Talking about problems with an outsider (i.e., therapist) may be viewed as airing one’s “dirty laundry,” and even more telling is the fact that over a quarter of those consumers felt that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family.
In a study I recently completed, one African American gentleman noted, “I was just embarrassed. Getting this type of help has, and continues to be, like a sore thumb in the African American community. Unfortunately, I don’t have insurance, so my fear was that if I sought help, it would not be good because I couldn’t afford it.”
Likewise, African Americans may be resistant to seek treatment because they fear it may reflect badly on their families–an outward admission of the family’s failure to handle problems internally. Something I found in my own studies, is that even among African Americans who suffered greatly from mental disorders, many held negative attitudes about people who obtain mental health care. No matter how impaired they were, they didn’t want to be one of “those people.”
Many African Americans with mental disorders are unaware that they have a diagnosable illness at all, and are even less aware that effective psychological treatments exist for their specific problem. Because of the taboo surrounding open discussion about mental illness, African Americans often have little knowledge of mental health problems and their treatments.
Click here to read more