200209030-001In our community, many of us tend to stigmatize mental illness or anything remotely related to it. The long-standing tradition of picking oneself up by the bootstraps and moving forward is an honorable one, and a genuine character building quality, but there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little help now and then. Nhi-Ha Trinh, MD, MPH, staff psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, gives some insight into the lack of trust in the mental health system for people of color: “One reason behind this problem is the cultural stigma associated with mental illness. In some communities, a diagnosis of mild depression or anxiety is equivalent to a more serious condition, such as psychosis. In some cultures, it’s a complete dichotomy,” she explained. “Either you’re healthy or you’re crazy. There’s nothing in between.”

Some situations, as benign as they may seem initially, can snowball into mentally, emotional and physical disorders, requiring professional care. Take stress for one. We all know some of the serious effects stress can have on a person’s entire being. But many wonder when to say when – at what point should a person reach out to get that extra help? This question is best answered by taking a close look at your life and decide how you intend to live it.

Nobody’s perfect, and there are times that the scars that life leaves us with are deeper than we’d like to think. The death of a loved one, destruction of a significant relationship, or the strain induced by on the job stress, are all common reasons people feel moved to seek psychotherapy. However, counseling can provide a safe and healthy outlet for anyone who is looking for some one to really listen, and better yet, provide balanced constructive and unbiased advice.

For many of us, the first step towards getting therapy may involve letting go of the stigma and allowing ourselves to overcome distrust. Despite what you may have been told, there are an increasing number of competent therapists (including therapists of color) who are at the top of their game in terms of providing culturally sensitive psychological support. In the end, regardless of your reasoning, it’s never worth depriving yourself the opportunity for mental and emotional healing. Whether it’s preventative care, crisis management, or just a place to unload, the benefits of therapy outweigh all the costs.

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