While people of all backgrounds suffer from mental health issues, Black Americans seek and receive mental health treatment at lower rates than the overall population. There are several reasons for this disparity, including healthcare disparities leading to Black Americans being less likely to possess health insurance. Those that do often have difficulty finding healthcare professionals who can provide culturally responsive treatment.
Historically, given the legacy of racism and lasting disparities in healthcare access and outcomes, Black Americans are also less likely to seek healthcare. And unfortunately, Black Americans seeking mental healthcare treatment have often been stigmatized in the Black community. However, attitudes in the Black community toward mental healthcare are finally shifting. And the pandemic has brought significant mainstream attention to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Still, not everyone who needs care is seeking or receiving it. Sometimes, the very nature of the mental illness requiring treatment stops those who have it from asking for help. If you have a loved one in need of mental health treatment, here are a few tips to encourage them to get the help they need.
Approach them with compassion
When speaking with your loved one, center the conversation on what they are going through. Do not focus on the impact of their behaviors or attitudes on others, which can be challenging to do if their behavior is disrupting your life. Instead, try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine the turmoil they may be facing. Discuss mental health treatment as a tool they can use to address and deal with their feelings and the pain they may be experiencing.
Share your experiences with mental healthcare
If you've seen a therapist, share some of your experiences with your loved one. Be frank. Explain that a single session is not enough to bring about lasting change and that mental health treatment requires actively participating in the process. Also, share any experiences you may have had using medication. Doing so can help your loved one feel less intimidated by seeking treatment.
Confront misperceptions head-on
Your efforts to encourage your loved one to seek treatment could easily be undermined by a casual remark made by a family member at the dinner table. If people in your shared circle cite myths and misperceptions about mental healthcare, don't be afraid to speak up and share your own experiences (to the extent you feel comfortable) to dispute them.
Help them find treatment
We all know how frustrating it can be to navigate the maze of healthcare providers and insurance plans. And for someone who's on the fence about receiving treatment, a bit of bureaucracy might be enough to push them away from treatment. Offer to sit down with them and help them find a healthcare provider with whom they are comfortable. By approaching our loved ones with compassion, sharing our experiences, speaking out against misperceptions, and actively helping them find treatment, we can significantly increase the odds that our loved ones will indeed seek treatment. Let's not forget to continue encouraging them after each session to help them stick with it.