Giving Compass' Take:
- A Black male therapist shares his experiences and concerns about the stigma of mental health services for young Black men.
- How can colleges work to fill gaps in demand for Black therapists and promote therapy and mental health services for men of color?
- Learn how gender and racial bias impact Black men's health.
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In my mental health work with college students, I’ve seen the importance of focusing therapy on things that are real, present, and specific. Many of my patients, especially young Black men, are wary about speaking with me because they think I’ll just talk in euphemisms and ask them about traumatic experiences from their childhood.
So we talk about what’s on their minds in the moment: their love lives, their frustrations with friends and rivals, their interests outside of school.
It may not come as a surprise to hear that doing so often helps them open up to more emotional, challenging topics. It helps that I, too, am Black.
We are in the midst of a mental health crisis; yet Black men are less likely than their white peers to seek out therapy. If we want Black men to get the help they need, we need to make it easier for them to do so, and we need more Black male therapists.
We need to build a world where accessing a Black therapist is as natural as going to the gym or getting a flu shot. We need to make use of new tools to not only connect therapists with their communities — like Uwill, which I use to connect with college students — but also help people access counseling on their own schedules, with the options to choose a therapist that looks like them and whatever communication medium (text, video, phone) they prefer.
As a Black male therapist, I sometimes refer to myself as a “unicorn.” According to the latest data from the American Psychological Association, just 4 percent of psychologists in the country are Black. And given that the broader community of therapists is 71 percent female, the percentage of people like me in the profession is probably closer to one in 100.
I know what you’re thinking: For nearly forty years, a growing body of research has highlighted people’s desire to find therapists who come from backgrounds and demographic groups similar to their own.
That means that people whose race or gender are underrepresented in the counseling profession, like me, should have much bigger workloads than our peers. And that today, at a time when the whole country is paying increasing attention to the importance of mental health, particularly among college students (who I do a lot of my work with), I must be totally overbooked.
Read the full article about Black male mental health by Paul Allen at The Hechinger Report.