Defining mental health has been an issue in the Black community stemming back to slavery. In Black households it is not uncommon to hear, “What happens in this house, stays in this house!”
While this may benefit a home in a chaotic society, people considering this may not find comfort in seeking help or outside opinions. As a result, secrets of abuse, neglect and trauma may foster homes.
The home environment is the first setting where one can learn from the wisdom that proceeds him.
Ingrained within the home of most people of African descent are certain rules learned through elders, peers, or by an individual’s experience which were adopted as survival tactics in a racially and economically oppressive society.
Dr. Jermaine Robertson, a Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumnus, professor of 14 years, and licensed psychologist said, “The mental breaking of African descendants mostly began at “The Maafa or ‘The Great Disaster’ that was the forced migration of African people's by Eastern Europe.”
Robinson has dedicated his studies to focus on how racial and cultural identities impact the development of psychological disorders in people of African descent.
“The Maafa devastated the family structure and changed the way Africans view mental health,” stated Robertson. “Because of the violent treatment slaves endured, they were not able to seek treatment of health concerns or mental stress. If they were not well enough or able to do the work, they would die or be killed.”
For African Americans, the behavior to not examine mental health has been adopted based off of their historic economic status or educational background.
“The lack of cultural trust due to a history of maltreatment and misdiagnosis play a part in the non-help-seeking attitude,” said Robertson.
Tria’le Thomas, a certified crisis counselor, mental health advocate, and FAMU alumna believes there are several reasons why one may not seek counseling or professional treatment.
“Along with the fear of confronting one's own ailment, there is also possible family separation toppled with the overall negative stigma that mental disorders are race conscious or are for the weak,” explained Thomas.
The roboticist of our capitalistic society has become an obstacle for people who want to seek help regardless of race, education or economic class.
Both men and women find themselves putting their mental health on the back burner for their career, family, or personal agendas.
“As a result of cultural practice, my people are not living purposefully so depression and anxiety are likely to creep in and settle,” said Thomas.
The help seeking attitude has been lackluster in the African American community according to Robertson’s observations.
Dougla-Khan Stancil of FAMU counseling services has been a mental health counselor for nearly a decade. When discussing the issues most confronted amongst college students, Stancil shed light on college students and counseling.
“College students have shown more consistency in seeking counseling,” stated Stancil. When asked about the groups most troubling mental state.
Tria’le Thomas agreed with Stancil’s assertion, urging that mental and self-care as a positive and normal way of addressing stress is on the rise and steadily climbing.
For mental health professionals like Stancil and Robertson the ultimate goal is to “aid clients through stress,” while exploring effective coping strategies that assist in a healthy recovery and long-term positive results.
FAMU offers a plethora of activities, events, and resources for those seeking counseling. To find out about all of the events and/or make an appointment with a licensed counselor, please contact the Office of Counseling Services at (850)599-3145 located at 636 Gamble Street.
All inquiries to the Office of Counseling Services are anonymous, unless deemed necessary.