A mental health resource in Dallas-Fort Worth reports an increase in the number of people seeking mental health help in recent years, some for the first time.
The spike includes people from all walks of life and different backgrounds, including Black Americans, according to Catherine Richardson, licensed professional counselor and regional director of counseling at Connections Wellness Group.
Richardson has noted younger generations have not only sought out help with mental health struggles, but they are helping break generational taboos surrounding mental health.
“They’re talking to their parents about it and their grandparents and their aunts and their uncles, and that's actually opening up very interesting conversations that are happening in the Black community of, ‘oh, wait, you went through this?’ ‘Yeah, your grandmother struggled with depression,’” she said. “It is creating a really, really helpful and good conversation amongst our communities because we need to talk about those things.”
Richardson explains that to understand this generational apprehension to speaking out about such personal struggles, one must understand African American history.
“Thirty, 40, 50 years ago, if you were a Black person in America, who already kind of had a scarlet letter on them, to now add on the piece of you have this mental illness, maybe a fear of that makes you unfit for society,” said Richardson. “That stamp of mental illness, many Black people thought, ‘well, that's going to make me feel even less than that I already feel as a black person to have this, this label on myself. So, I just don't want to touch it at all.’”
While progress continues to be made, disparities still exist in accessibility to health care costs and representation among the experts.
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“Most mental health clinicians tend to be of the majority culture, majority culture clinicians who may not understand or may feel uncomfortable to ask questions in regards to race in regards to sexuality,” she said. “But so many therapists these days are getting trained in cultural competency, in culturally responsive care.”
And availability often does not equal accessibility, she adds.
“I think that that is on practitioners to be really creative in offering virtual appointments, in creating offices that are in neighborhoods that maybe people wouldn't typically go to, offering sliding scales, offering maybe vouchers or services for people who don't have insurance or who are not all the way insured,” said Richardson.
Addressing mental health in children is also vital, said the mental health expert, especially when some have witnessed traumatic events unfold on TV or in person.
“Helping kids to understand it's OK to identify disappointment, feeling nothing, feeling numb, feeling terrified. So really broadening that vocabulary for them,” said Richardson.
Parents and loved ones are discouraged from questioning why a child is crying, instead “your role in that is just to help them stay regulated, help them to stay calm, comfort them and then post that, that's when you have the conversation. So, a better question instead of ‘Why are you crying?’ is ‘What came up for you in that moment,’” she said. “As Black people, we need to pay a lot of attention to our kid’s interests, the messages that they're taking in about themselves, about the world around them… They're already carrying around a lot of stress, a lot of just underlying microaggressions that maybe other kids aren't dealing with.”