I told my grandmother that I started to go to therapy when I used to go a while ago, and the first thing she asked was,
“What do you need therapy for?”
I come from a background where family figures I admire don’t trust mental health professionals. I also come from a background where going to a professional is encouraged. But the side that doesn’t approve of therapy intimidated me the most and affected me the most.
Just because one may experience depression and/or anxiety in their life, doesn’t have a direct correlation with their prayer life or spiritual life if they identify as a religious person. It doesn’t mean they aren’t trying hard enough to be rid of their personal pains. It doesn’t mean that they love God any less.
There is still this misconception in the black community where mental issues, or basically any personal issues for that matter, are white issues. We don’t want to be perceived as more wrong than we already are as black people. Which is why mental health is so taboo to talk about in the black community.
That doesn’t make it okay to not seek professional help when necessary and when you are absolutely able. It definitely doesn’t make it okay to tell others that they should not seek help.
We often hear from other black people that we should pray about it instead of going to therapy. But what is wrong with doing both?
I have struggled with anxiety and depression, and I would experience it worse when people would say things like:
“It’s all in your head. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
I find this very problematic because I find this statement to be bull crap. I believe God has given me a lot of things that I couldn’t handle. If I could handle it, why would I experience it in the first place? However, I do believe that God doesn’t give me anything He cannot fix. I believe He is always to fix things that I can’t.
“You’re just not praying hard enough.”
How do you know what anyone’s prayer life is like unless they tell you? More people tend to pray when they are in stress. So I’m pretty sure my dedication to prayer is fine. If it’s not, that’s between me and the Lord. And, is this blasphemous to say, prayer eventually led me to go to therapy, where I am encouraged to get better and use my spiritual and religious practices along with other exercises.
“This will be all over soon if you just chose to be happy.”
…see, if I force myself to be happy, I’m not really happy. If things were all happy-go-lucky all the time, I wouldn’t know what happiness was. Moreover, I would much prefer to feel joy rather than happiness. Joy is more fulfilling, long-lasting.
Telling someone that one should just pray their depression away when they need other forms of help is not fruitful. Telling someone that they are experiencing depression because they are not loyal enough to God is cruel. I know one may not intend to be cruel, but it is.
Mental health issues are alive and well in the black community. They won’t go away unless we continue finding more ways to talk about it and encourage others to seek help.