Mental Health Experts Explains Why You Shouldn't Fear Therapy

There was once a time when I'd start to search "New York City–based therapists" in Google and feel a knot forming in my stomach as overwhelming thoughts flooded my brain. But the low point I was at in my life was an unfamiliar feeling I couldn't accurately explain to my close friends and family. My mind would not calm down amid all the judgments I anticipated I'd receive for going to therapy. What are people going to think of me? I'm a strong woman; I don't need professional help. Are my feelings even valid?

The question I'm still grappling with now is why is this shame of considering therapy so deeply rooted in my conscious? The truth is I was falling subject to the same hesitations held by many other African Americans who are reluctant to enter into therapy. A 2008 study found that among black surveyees, over a third felt that mild depression or anxiety would be considered "crazy" in their social circles. In their minds, talking about their issues with an outsider like a therapist would be seen as airing one's "dirty laundry," and over a quarter of the participants felt that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family.

Even more specific to me, research reveals that black women have a higher risk of developing mental illness, attributed to factors including low income, poor health, multiple-role strain, and the “double minority status” of race and gender. A national study determined that 60% of black women experience symptoms of depression. Even so, the use of mental health services is lower for black women compared to white women and African-American men.

To motivate myself and others who might be feeling the same way, I set out to explore the myths about therapy and to better understand why we shouldn't fear it.