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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Gillis, LMHC

BIPOC: Healing is Your Right

"Healing can't begin until we face the truth even if the truth is hard"

The definition of healing is : to make free from injury or disease : to make sound or whole again; to restore to health. Based upon this definition, healing echoes and empowers freedom from something that was once causing harm. Something so liberating at times seems so hard to attain. Why is this? Healing will not take place until the courage to encounter the truth happens. Encountering and dealing with the truth can be challenging. This challenge has been prevalent among the African American community.

Healing Difficulties

African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. There is history of dehumanization, oppression, and violence against Black and African American people. It continues to evolve into present day racism - structural, institutional, and individual –

There has been layers of individual trauma this community has faced on top of new mass traumas from modern day issues such as police brutality and covid-19.

Due to these factors and everyday experiences, Black and African American people are more likely to experience chronic and persistent, rather than episodic, mental health conditions.

They are more likely to experience events that increase their risk of developing a mental health condition. Help-seeking behaviors have been affected due to a mistrust of the medical system. Most tragically, there are cultural barriers that have prohibited African Americans from discussing the topic of mental health. This is a barrier to their process of healing. The culture has taught many of the marginalized communities that they do not have the privilege of being vulnerable like other communities; there is this idea that they are unbreakable.

Therefore, in the African American Community, much of the way African Americans “deal with mental health, or choose not to, is based on these social barriers that are deeply engrained. Therapy has been stigmatized as something for people who could not handle challenges and therefore across generations there has been a resistance to change. In addition, this is further compounded by the lack of access to mental health services in their communities.

Getting help is a foreign and weak concept in the black community. This stigmatized ideology leaves this community dealing with the effects but not addressing the overall symptoms.

For instance, take a patient that has been experiencing flu like symptoms. They have body chills, runny nose, and other symptoms. They are aware that these symptoms can cause other issues yet they don't want to face the reality that they might just have the flu or simply don't know how.

One can be aware that they have symptoms that are a result of their experience yet refuse to address them or don't know how to address them due to barriers. This barrier of addressing their experiences has caused a ripple effect.

The impact of Unaddressed Wounds

The brain begins the dissociation process as a way of organizing the experience. A mental wall of contentment is built and an individual composes a cognitive pattern of "I am fine" until they both join together and camouflages the reality of the pain. As a result, these are the statistics according to the Mental Health Association:

  • Black and African American people living below poverty are twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those living over 2x the poverty level.

  • Adult Blacks and African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites.

  • Blacks and African Americans are less likely than white people to die from suicide at all ages. [8] However, Black and African American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than White teenagers

  • Historical adversity, which includes slavery, sharecropping, and race-based exclusion from health, educational, social, and economic resources, translates into socioeconomic disparities experienced by Black and African American people today. Socioeconomic status, in turn, is linked to mental health: people who are impoverished, homeless, incarcerated, or have substance use problems are at higher risk for poor mental health.

Treatment Options

I urge members of this community to begin the work. Matters that are not dealt with can cause mental stress and physical ailments. Treatment Options are available. You may not be responsible for what happened to you remember this:

"Healing is a choice. Healing is your right. Healing is your responsibility. "

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