There is a taboo around therapy in the Black community and it needs to be normalized, like now. Many believe that going to therapy shows a man is weak and not able to handle his business on his own. Many believe mental health treatments were designed by white people, for white people. Others believe, therapy is just a way to make money off people. Another factor, is a deep mistrust in therapists who don’t fit the same socioeconomic and cultural background as Black men – in other words, a lot of the Black community does not trust white people with their deepest thoughts. All in all, a large sum of Black people do not believe therapy should be a priority, and thus it is put to the side or not even considered.
Too often Black men aren’t allowed to share their feelings because they’ve been conditioned to “man up” and get through struggles on their own. From a very young age, Black men have been taught that being a man means providing for your family, attaining financial success, being tough and self-sufficient. They are taught to be fearless and to keep pushing, believing that it’s okay to be angry, but not sad. They are seldom taught that being a man means opening up, letting people in and sharing the weight. It leads them to only talk about “safe” topics, like sports, cars, technology, work and fitness. Which is ironic, considering Black men have greater stressors due to racism, prejudice, economic disparities and a plethora of other things their skin tones come with.
Black men are told by other Black men they confine in to “man up” or “handle your business.” This is sending the wrong message. It tells the receiver that this “safe” person they opened up to cannot or is unwilling to help and that it’s an individual problem – one that needs to (and should be) solved alone. Not to negate personal problem solving skills, praying or reflecting but these mindsets often cause Black men to separate themselves and their struggles from family, friends and significant others – people placed to help them and split the weight.
Many studies have found that Black men are less likely to seek out mental health services than their white counterparts and Black women. A lot of the time this leads to undiagnosed depression, anxiety and trauma. If you are reading this, I want you to know that you are human and emotions (stress, fears, and anxieties) are a normal part of life and seeking help to manage your emotions is actually healthy and should be celebrated. Black men, it is okay to hurt. It is okay to not be okay. The world can handle it.
With that being said, I refuse to be naïve in thinking that although it’s getting better – much of the Black community frowns upon professional help-seeking. I’m happy that Black therapists are on the rise and believe that the representation in the field will help mitigate the stigma around help-seeking. Therapy is a great outlet to discuss all the weight Black men carry, and it can be used as an advantage – not a weakness. Therapy provides a safe space to work through years of issues, to decompress, to finally share what’s been trapped inside of you. It is a way to become whole again and that should not be frowned upon, but embraced.