Stigma around therapy may be lifting

FAMU student Jiliah Henderson. Photo courtesy: Henderson

The pandemic is still impacting many homes and communities around the world. For some, being on lockdown and isolated from everyone else has forced them to take their mental health more seriously.

Jiliah Henderson is a student at Florida A&M University. Although she didn’t see a decline in her mental health, she realized that emotional stability was crucial for her.

“I understood the importance of being in the moment more because the outside was closed. You had to be in your house, get to know yourself, talk to your family,” Henderson said.

When it comes to African American communities, a study by a group of psychiatrists lists a few of the reasons why they could be suffering.

The list reads, “African Americans are experiencing trauma and mental health issues for many different reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include: Anxiety from not being able to follow stay-at-home recommendations to protect themselves from COVID-19 due to their job situation, separation from friends and family, especially those who are sick or in the hospital, grief over the loss of friends and family members, emotional stress of close living situations and finding care for children out of school, financial stress of health care costs, job loss, and ongoing difficulties accessing health care services.”

In the Black community, mental health is sometimes labeled “a touch subject and taboo,” according to Destiny Carver. She says that her family unexpectedly experienced a rough season that opened their eyes about seeking professional help.

“My house is family oriented,” Carver said. “Not being able to see people and invite people over was hard for us. My mom is battling a severe illness so most of the time, she got her strength and hope from family members.”

Carver says that it wasn’t until the peak of the pandemic that everything began to take a serious toll on her family.

“Initially, it was a hard adjustment. But, we started to experience loss in the family and everything went downhill. My brother had thoughts of suicide and I wasn’t doing that well in school. My mom’s mental health started to affect her physically too.”

Carver was introduced to family therapy by a former professor who she was close to. She says that initially, her family was opposed to the idea but she now describes it as therapy as their “saving grace.”

“Therapy was looked down on by so many people that I knew growing up. They always felt like we had to suffer in silence. But getting my mom and immediate family to commit to it has definitely changed our view of it and will hopefully change the mindset of generations to come,” Carver said.

A post by McLean, the Harvard Medical school affiliate, addresses concerns about why there is such a strong and ongoing stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community.

It reads, “The root of mental health stigma among Black people can be traced back to slavery. At that time it was commonly thought that slaves were not sophisticated enough to develop depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders.”

The post also explains how and why it is viewed as a weakness.

“Such nuanced descriptions for depression and other mental illnesses that the Black community adopted and passed on from generation to generation led to underestimating the effects and impact of mental health conditions. Also, it strengthened beliefs that a psychiatric disorder is a personal weakness.”

The pandemic brought on trauma that many students have never experienced before. When returning back to campus, FAMU’s Office of Counseling Services offered more events and opportunities for students. One initiative was titled, “COVID-19 Coping Corner.”

Carver says that she was encouraged by her parents and peers to attend.

“The fact that they even pushed me to go to things like this is amazing. Two years ago, this wouldn’t have been a thing. This shows that they care about me and where I am mentally.”

For more information about the FAMU Office of Counseling Services visit