Why representation matters in Mental Health

by | Jan 14, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

In 2018 we are seeing a multitude of blatant acts of racism. Under the current administration the climate of the US has catapulted backwards 100 years. Needless to say, all the events have had a negative effect on the mental state of people of color. Besides advocating for more people of color to invest in their mental health we have to worry if the people that we send them to do not hold underlying biases or prejudices. Or are flat out racist. This now means we must advocate for more representation within mental health workers.

Many people of color already have barriers, some cultural, some stigma related, as to why they are apprehensive to seeking treatment. One reason in particular, that I have found difficulty in refuting, is that there aren’t many people of color in this field. Working in this field even in the short amount of time I have heard statements related to the lack of people that “look like them”. Despite there being amazing helpers of all backgrounds, having someone that understands your cultural norms and beliefs eliminates some of the fears associated with seeking treatment. I have and I am constantly examining my world view! Although, I am a black woman that came from a low SES, I still have to account for the other moving parts of my intersection that wheels itself into the session.

Wellness and mental illness are perceived and manifests differently across cultures. Understanding this as well as cultural norms will determine whether or not treatment is successful. Many people who seek treatment feel as though they will spend the majority of their time in session educating their therapist instead of receiving much need help. For example, a person in the black community that is also religious might use the excuse “the devil made me do it” when explaining the reason for their poor decision making. This same person could be diagnosed with schizophrenia. Although that’s making light of a situation there are many scenarios that are similar.

I believe all people have the right to equitable treatment, support for their human rights, and fair allocation of societal resources.  We as counselors should be able to acknowledge the ways the environment influences a client’s development to challenge systemic barriers that block their psychosocial development. Most often, client’s issues are reactions to, or symptoms of, deep seated problems in the social environment, like microaggressions or good ole systemic racism.

To locate a mental health therapist of color a good resource is Psychology Today. Each therapist will have individual specialties. You may even reach out to me for assistance with locating a therapist at Wellnessfortheculture.com on the contact page.

With Love,

For the Culture,

Whitney

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