Part of the process for authentic self-discovery is knowing when to enlist the help of a neutral ear so that your self-expression can be reflected as positive changed behavior.
For as long as I can remember there has been a dark cloud looming over the relationship between mental health care and the black community. The outlook on these issues has different levels of acceptance depending on the experiences across the diaspora.
Dr. Joy Degruy coined the diagnosis: Post Traumatic Slavery Syndrome and uses research of historical events that led to chattel slavery in this country, starting with the kidnapping of Africans from their homes, the deathly transport across the Atlantic, and once arriving on foreign lands being forced to separate from their families and work the lands without pay with no end in sight. Any thought of insurrection or demand for equality resulted in extreme violence and death. The levels of sub-human treatment dealt to Blacks just to institutionalize white supremacy and justify it with laws created a completely different life experience for Blacks. Examining the data, can you blame us for the distrust?
The multiple historical accounts shared throughout the culture, give the reason why there is distinct distrust in the health and mental care systems. Two words: Tuskegee Experiment. Black men in Macon County, who were farmers with minimal records of doctor visits, were promised health care services that would provide a cure for a “bad blood” illness that was plaguing the area. These same men were used as test subjects to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis. During the study, it was discovered that penicillin could cure the disease, yet, those doctors chose to deprive the men of treatment. It took a whistleblower and an egregious amount of investigation before the “experiment” was shutdown. The men who were still alive received settlements but there is no dollar amount to erase the trauma. How did their experience impact the rest of their lives and the lives of their families?
Given all that we have faced and risen above, it is no surprise that there is a correlation of mistrust between the Black Community and the Health and Mental care community. In some cases the distrust comes from more societal stigmas and labels that push people into a box of shame and make normalized life seem unachievable. Along with an in-depth look at our history, current injustices that these American institutions hold (i.e. socioeconomic inequalities and access), Dr. DeGruy also points out that there are positive and negative cultural traits that we must adapt from.
As a mother, I’ve learned that my responsibility to my children is passing down the positive legacies and doing the work to break generational curses. This means having comfortable and uncomfortable conversations, acknowledging moments of fear, calling out the village for toxic attitudes and behaviors, and taking moments to pray and be in peace. I talk about how our home is a safe space where differences are celebrated, in 6 Ways To Thrive While Raising a Daughter with ADHD. In collaboration with all, we do at home, thriving in the world may involve external guidance. With that, today my family had our first therapy session.
After researching therapists, finding them and getting turned away until 2020 due to packed schedules. Trust me, I wanted to give up and blame it on the system. I would have been justified in my disbelief in the system but I knew it was my right to demand rights for my family. I finally connected with an office, just 20 minutes from our home. Based on our needs, we were paired with a therapist who specializes in child and family therapy and within a week, we had a session scheduled.
That Friday afternoon, all three of us set out on a mini road-trip, excited for the hour ahead of us. Open arriving, we were greeted with a warm smile from Jolee. A win in my book (okkkkuurrr). Kamaiyah introduced herself straight away (another win) and met with her one on one for 40 minutes (touchdown!). Y’ll know I’m excited about these small wins and for those that trivialize, like my son raps along with Kendrick Lamar “be humble, sit down”!
I can proudly say this is just one of many sessions. As we grow and evolve the willingness to speak as a family on our own and with a neutral guide will only add to our toolkit of strength.