The Taboo of Mental Health in the Black Community

Most children growing up are told that they have to sleep in their own bed. Same for me, but in the middle of the night I would sneak out and creep down the hallway to my parents room. I’d stand on my mothers side and wince, “Can I sleep with you?” My mother didn’t mind most of the time but my father would protest. I never understood why he was so against me sleeping in the bed with them until he told me when I was older. As a veteran he explained that he has post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his time spent at war. This disorder would sometimes cause him to have night terrors and he didn’t want to potentially hurt me if I’d slept in the same bed as him. Discussing my father's illness made me think about how the Black community deals, or in most cases doesn't deal with mental health.


Monéi’s dad and Monéi as a baby

When it comes to most families in the Black community, discussing mental health usually is regarded as a taboo topic. Families are very dismissive and tend to downplay the severity of the problems faced. Actual medical aid is shunned and instead of visiting a professional therapist going to church is where all problems can be solved. This cycle has caused so much trauma not just for the person suffering but also the people around them who indirectly deal with mental illness. 

Actress Taraji P. Henson is an advocate for mental health awareness, as she has dealt with it in her family. Her foundation, Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, is dedicated to her father who also struggled with mental health due to his time spent in the Vietnam War. With the help of her celeb status, Henson's goal is “advocating and raising funds for culturally competent counselors and social works in urban schools.” When Henson says culturally competent counselors she is referring to therapist who are a part of the black community who can empathize with their patients. 



I had the chance to speak with Dr. Darlene Powell Garlington who is a licensed clinical psychologist. Dr. Garlington is a black woman with her own private practice. She helps anyone in need with clients of all ethinic backgrounds and ages ranging from 9-99. Not only does Dr. Garlington stress therapy for those dealing with mental health but she also advises people to get counseling even when they think they don’t need it. 'It’s best to take action before a mental breakdown. Get therapy not just when your upset but also during good times so you can plan and prevent if things do go wrong,'’ she said. 

There is still a lot of work to be done when discussing the stigma of mental health in the black community. Finding a therapist that can empathize with problems, or simply having talks within the family dynamic that aren’t dismissive can truly make a difference in how mental health is dealt with.