Terrie Williams, award-winning mental health advocate and author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting. (Courtesy Photo)
By Jazelle Hunt, NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON, D.C. (NNPA) – The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that there are more than 40 million Americans currently dealing with mental illnesses, not including issues related drug and alcohol use.
But mental health treatment goes far beyond diagnoses and prescriptions.
“You don’t have to be what we know as mentally ill. You don’t have to be schizophrenic or bipolar to seek therapy. You can seek therapy because your dog died, and you just feel sad about it,” says Nikki Davis, a prison psychologist and substance abuse and family therapist in Virginia. “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Your weakness comes from [when] you don’t seek the help you know you need.”
Davis was about 10 years old the first time she saw a therapist. One of her siblings seemed to be struggling with an emotional disorder, and her parents felt the whole family could use some help.
May is Mental Health Month and for many Black people, the concept of mental health treatment s somewhere between laughable and extravagant. Reasons abound for Black people who dismiss mental health treatment.
“In the Black community we are hesitant to trust medical professionals. We think that mental health or mental illness is a white person’s disease. We have a tendency to want to pray it away,” Davis says. “[In therapy] they get an unbiased opinion. You’re going to get a non-judgmental and unbiased environment that is going to be as honest and forthcoming as it can be without damaging you.”
Therapy or counseling involves talking to an educated and licensed medical professional in a safe, confidential, non-judgmental environment.
Regular counseling sessions take place in a comfortable, private office, and are usually about an hour each week or bi-weekly – but the client can re-quest a different arrangement