When it comes to mental health in the black community, therapy still has so many stigmas. While some still hold on to the misinformed notion that "only crazy people need therapy," others are working hard to get their mental ailments in check and promote the importance of self-care through the lens of mental wellness.
Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Ph.D., is one of those people working diligently to dispel the myths surrounding therapy and openly sharing one’s hardships for their own healing and the healing of others. In an effort to meet people where they are, especially black women, Dr. Bradford created the online platform Therapy for Black Girls which is dedicated to the mental wellness of black women and girls.
"My work has always been heavily focused on black women and girls," Dr. Bradford said to Black Enterprise. "I think too often we’re so busy taking care of other people that we aren’t always paying attention to what’s going on with us. I wanted a platform that helped sisters put the focus back on themselves."
Dr. Bradford’s initial blog has expanded into a podcast with listeners around the world, a Facebook Group named the Thrive Tribe, which is home to over 13,000 members, and a therapist directory with over 700 therapists across the nation. She believes within the black community, people have been programmed to only talk about private matters with their family members, and sometimes that is not enough. Dr. Bradford also mentions the belief that seeking therapy reflects a lack of faith or is cause for being labeled as "crazy," both of which are not true.
Explaining how her work addresses this, Dr. Bradford told Black Enterprise:
"The Therapy for Black Girls podcast is helping to reduce that stigma. The podcast episodes are designed to help people get an idea of the millions of different reasons someone might benefit from therapy. Listeners are also exposed to a variety of therapists that are guests on the show. This format helps them to realize that we all have different personalities and work differently so there is likely a therapist out there that’s a great fit for everyone. I also do live video chats on both Instagram & Facebook at 12 noon ET every Thursday. I call it Three for Thursday and I share three tips about a topic and then open the floor for general questions. I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get accurate information about mental health and to dispel any myths they may have about how therapy works, etc."
When looking to help loved ones who are depressed or may be seeking help, Dr. Bradford said three common phrases to avoid are: "Just pray about it," "Your life is so good, what do you have to be depressed about?" and "Life is hard for everyone, toughen up." While some people have good intentions behind statements such as these, the person on the receiving end may take it as you not understanding them or not caring. Instead, Dr. Bradford suggested using a phrase such as: "I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling. Do you want to talk more about how you’re feeling?"
In terms of mental health and self-care among black women, the importance of setting boundaries is something Dr. Bradford believes is often overlooked.
"I think far too many of us don’t say NO enough. No to that extra task at work, no to that friend who never shows up for us, no to that ex who keeps trying to come back into our lives, etc. I don’t think we always realize the cumulative impact that taking on other people’s stuff can have on our mental health," she told Black Enterprise.
One thing people can do to reduce the stigma of depression and anxiety, in Dr. Bradford’s eyes, is to share struggles and experiences more openly. She also believes being cautious with language and removing stigmatizing phrases is a great way to start.
To learn more about Therapy For Black Girls or to find a therapist near you, visit her site by clicking here.
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