There are many people in Black community with mental health concerns who are hesitant to seek mental health care. Why is this? My research set out to answer this question.
I interviewed Black men and women from across Canada and asked them: “Think of a time when you had a mental health concern. How willing were you to seek help from a mental health professional?” Most of the people I spoke to said they were not very willing to seek mental health treatment.
Throughout these conversations I found out that a lot of the unwillingness had to do with cultural norms. Some of these norms included experiences with anti-Black racism, relying on internal resources, and turning to social, familial, and spiritual sources of support. Essentially, seeking help from a mental health professional often clashed with cultural norms. As a result, people felt that seeing a mental health professional might mean being misunderstood by the mental health professional; feeling judged by oneself and people close to them; and feeling pessimistic that the mental health service would be useful or worthwhile.
In addition, most of the people I interviewed had experiences with seeking mental health care. Many of them said that when they first began having mental health concerns, they were unwilling to seek professional help but after having positive experiences with mental health services they were more willing to go again in the future.
Ultimately, we want everyone to be able to benefit from receiving mental health services. It is my hope that research like this will give us information that we need to make mental health services as culturally inclusive and welcoming to as many people as possible.
Dr. Renee Taylor, C.Psych. (Supervised Practice) is a psychologist in supervised practice at the Centre for Interpersonal Relationships (CFIR). Dr. Taylor provides psychological services to individual adults and couples experiencing a wide range of challenges related to mood, anxiety, trauma, and relationship difficulties. In her work she integrates therapeutic techniques from emotion-focused therapy (EFT), psychodynamic therapy, and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).