BLOGDo I need healing? 

Let’s talk about when it is time to get professional help.

The decision to seek professional help for a mental health issue is not always an easy choice to make, especially in our community. In the Black community, mental health challenges have often been something that we just don’t talk about. We may choose to hide our challenges from our closest friends and family members, or even from ourselves. There is a stigma in our community about seeking professional help. We may have been led to believe that seeking professional help is a sign of weakness, or that we should be able to ‘pull ourselves up by our bootstraps’ and handle it on our own. We may have been told that Black people don’t have time to be depressed, or that mental health treatment doesn’t work for us. These messages are false and completely inaccurate. And unfortunately, many of us end up living with difficult symptoms and enduring needless suffering as a result of these silences and stigmas. 

Seeking help for a mental health condition is not a sign of weakness. Recognizing you may need help and seeking out the appropriate support is true strength and a sign of real resiliency. While some mental health issues can resolve on their own, many others may require professional treatment. And there are many treatments that are incredibly effective, especially if you have access to culturally competent mental health care. In our last post, we highlighted some strategies for enhancing mental health and wellness and finding your joy without professional intervention. If you have tried those methods, and still need help, there are many professional treatment options that you can consider. The bottom line is – no one should have to suffer through mental health challenges alone. And at the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, we want to help you find the mental health care that is right for you. 

The reality is – challenges with mental health are common. In fact, 1 out of 4 individuals will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their lifetime. And an even greater number of people are currently living with symptoms of a mental health condition that could be improved with professional intervention. Not every mental health challenge requires professional help and professional mental health treatment may not be the right choice for everyone. Knowing the difference between symptoms that can be addressed on your own, and when it may be the right time to get professional help is important to try to determine. If you are reading this post, chances are you or someone you know may be dealing with symptoms of a mental illness and grappling with the decision about whether or not to seek professional help. Here are some things to think about that might help you decide whether professional mental health treatment could be the right answer.

Are you experiencing persistent symptoms of psychological distress that are impacting your daily functioning? If you are having symptoms that are impacting your ability to function, this is something you want to take very seriously. Are you having difficulty getting out of bed, sleeping significantly more or not being able to sleep at all, eating significantly more or not having an appetite at all? Are you having symptoms of anxiety that prevent you from going to work, school, or engaging in activities with others? Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy? These could all be signs of depression, and seeking professional intervention could help you to address these symptoms. And most importantly, to help you get to feeling better.

Are you experiencing persistent symptoms of psychological distress that are enduring longer than 2 weeks? Having a bad day or week, or having fleeting feelings of anxiety are common and often do not require professional intervention. But if you are having persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or if any of the symptoms in the previous paragraph have lasted uninterrupted for longer than two weeks and none of your current coping strategies are working, it may be helpful to seek professional mental health treatment. 

Are you using alcohol, drugs, or other unhealthy things to cope with your feelings? If you are experiencing symptoms that have become so overwhelming that you are self-medicating with alcohol or drugs to escape your feelings, this could suggest mental health intervention could be beneficial for you. Coping with mental health symptoms with these kinds of substances may feel like temporary relief, but in reality, they are merely masking the underlying problem and can make that problem even worse. Consider the fact that alcohol is a depressant, and if you are already experiencing symptoms of depression, self-medicating with alcohol will eventually just make you feel even more depressed. Working with a culturally competent clinician can help you find healthy coping strategies to address your mental health symptoms and the challenges with alcohol or drug use. 

Have you experienced a traumatic event that is impacting you? We all experience trauma at some point in our lives and the reality is, people often find mental health intervention in the aftermath of trauma to be of great benefit. Trauma can be recent or the re-emergence of trauma that happened in your past that has remained unaddressed. 

There are three kinds of traumas: acute, chronic, and complex. Acute trauma is the result of a single incident such as the death of a loved one, witnessing a murder or other violent crime,  or experiencing a natural disaster. Chronic trauma is usually repeated and prolonged, as in abuse or domestic violence. Complex trauma is the result of exposure to multiple traumatic events over one’s lifetime. Processing trauma and learning how to cope with it, is one of the many benefits of working with a trained mental health clinician. 

The decision to seek professional mental health treatment is an individual choice. And consider this; you don’t have to be experiencing symptoms of mental illness or in crisis to seek professional mental health services. Mental health and wellness is about more than just addressing symptoms of mental illness. Our mental health includes our emotional, psychological, spiritual, and social well-being. It impacts how we think, what we feel, and how we act and react. It determines how we handle daily stressors, engage in relationships, and make choices. You may find having a therapist is a coping strategy that is beneficial to you at any phase in your life. It is a time in your day or week that is just for you. Therapy is a place where you can talk about what is going on in your life, listening, giving feedback and helping to provide you with new skills and coping strategies that can benefit your life. 

I hope this article has helped you to think about whether seeking professional mental health treatment is right for you. If you are looking for a clinician, reach out to us. Check out our Can We Talk Resource Guide. The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation can help you identify a culturally competent clinician in your area. In my next post, we will explore the various types of treatments that are available to you and your family. In the meantime, I encourage you to reach out to me if there are questions you’d like answered or topics you would like explored. I sincerely look forward to hearing from you. 

Until next time, remember to choose joy over everything, and that your health is your most valuable asset. 

Kyaien Conner, PhD, LSW, MPH
Provider Training and Outreach Coordinator
Boris Lawrence. Henson Foundation

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