May is Mental Health Awareness month and today I’m teaming up with a few bloggers and social media influencers to shed some light on how important mental health is, and hopefully destigmatize the myths surrounding it.
My mental health journey started in 2003 after I lost my mom suddenly. It felt like my world was flipped upside down in an instant. The life that I knew up until that moment was suddenly taken away from me and if it hadn’t been for my incredibly supportive and loving step-mom I don’t know if I would’ve dealt with the sudden change as well as I did. I know I say it a lot, but I was truly blessed when it came to the step-parent department. She was the one who encouraged me and my sister to start seeing a therapist and working through whatever emotions we were dealing with. Now from my experience that isn’t common, especially in the Black community so I have to applaud my step-mom for doing what a lot wouldn’t have done.
I grew up hearing so many myths about therapy, myths that had me hesitant at first and if I’m being honest those same myths have kept some of my loved ones from seeking the help they need. I wanted to share and debunk a few of those myths today, and hopefully this process will encourage you guys to take that first step towards being proactive about your mental health.
Stigmatizing myths about therapy –
“It’s only for depressed or “crazy” people” – Lies. Fairytales. Fallacies! First of all, I’m not a fan of the word “crazy”, especially in this context. I’m a firm believer that most people can benefit from therapy, regardless of their mental state. Whether you’re going in to deal with trauma or if you’re going in to have an unbiased sounding board, therapy is a tool that needs to be used on a regular basis. It’s like going to your medical doctors, yes, of course, you’d go if you got hurt but there’s also those annual preventative visits too. I don’t just go and see my gyno when I think something’s wrong, I see him to make sure that nothing wrong is going on. Psychologists and psychiatrists are doctors too, and they should be visited like you would a PCP.
“Therapy means you’re weak” – The exact opposite. I think that acknowledging the fact that you don’t have all of the answers and then choosing to seek out professional help means that you’re strong. You might have been born into this world on your own, but you don’t have to deal with this life by yourself. There are so many tools available to help you be the best you that you can be. Utilize those tools! Going to therapy doesn’t mean that you’re weak, it means that you want to be mentally stronger than you are now.
“No ones going to therapy” – Another lie. This is actually a pretty common lie spread throughout the Black community. I was told from a very young age that Black people don’t do therapy, especially lower and middle-class Black people. Therapy is something for rich, White people. Now I don’t know if it was a money issue, maybe therapy wasn’t as affordable back then as it is now, but I now know that that’s not true. I know more people who see a therapist on a regular basis than people who don’t. And nowadays there are so many methods and forms of therapy. Yeah, the lying on a couch talking about your life and feelings is nice but every session doesn’t always call for that. Half of the fun with therapy is finding the best therapist for you. I went to 3 different doctors before I found my current therapist and I love her. She gets me, lets me vent but holds me accountable for my bullshit. I’m at the point where I see her once a month (unless I need an emergency session), but it took time for us to get there. I love that no two sessions are the same and that she is constantly challenging me to be a better me.
4 popular myths about therapy that need to be debunked! #BloggersForMentalHealth #B4MH Click To Tweet
“You don’t need to pay to talk to someone when you have family members, friends or God.” – Whew! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this one over the years. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in prayer but I don’t think prayer and therapy are the same. I was taught that faith without work is dead, and I see my therapy session as a form of work. I’m actively working on making my situation better and that coupled with my prayer has helped me tremendously through the years. As far as using your loved ones for “free therapy”, I’m kind of iffy on that. There’s nothing wrong with a good venting session with your girls, but sometimes you need that outside opinion. Often times our loved ones are too close to the situation to truly help us; they usually mimic our thoughts and at the end of the day nothing gets accomplished. Like I said, my therapist is great at giving me that unbiased opinion and holding me accountable for my bullshit. It’s tough love, but that’s what I need. I’ve told my therapist things I’ve never said to anyone else, and I know that she will keep what we say between us. The same can’t be said about your favorite auntie. You know? A therapist has to keep your sessions confidential (unless you’re talking about harming yourself or anyone else), but a loved one isn’t bound by that same oath.
I really hope that this post encourages to you take that first step towards becoming the best you and erases your doubts when it comes to therapy. I know that finding time in your busy schedules to go and see a therapist in person can be hard, so I at least want to encourage you to check out Better Help or Talk Space. It’s an online resource I’ve heard great things about, allowing you to connect with a therapist online and on your own time.
Oh, and remember that if you or someone else you know is in crisis please please please make use of the following resources:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1- 800-799-7233
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433)
Lifeline Crisis Chat (Online live messaging): http://www.crisischat.org/
Crisis Text Line: Text “START” TO 741-741
Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)
Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228
Planned Parenthood Hotline: 1-800-230-PLAN (7526)
American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222
National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency Hope Line: 1-800-622-2255
National Crisis Line – Anorexia and Bulimia: 1-800-233-4357
GLBT Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
TREVOR Crisis Hotline: 1-866-488-7386
AIDS Crisis Line: 1-800-221-7044
Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net
Suicide Prevention Wiki: http://suicideprevention.wikia.com