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Navigating Stigma: Mental Health Challenges in Communities of Colour
This article was reviewed by Angie Agrawal Holstein, Psychotherapist and Owner/Founder of Shanti Psychotherapy.
Mental health is an important aspect of overall health and well-being, yet it is often stigmatized and misunderstood, particularly in communities of colour. The intersection of race, culture, and mental health creates unique challenges for individuals seeking support and treatment. In this blog, we will explore the stigma surrounding mental health in communities of colour, and provide some strategies for navigating these challenges.
Stigma and Mental Health
Stigma refers to the negative attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes associated with a particular characteristic or condition, such as mental illness. Stigma can lead to discrimination, social exclusion, and a lack of access to resources and support. Mental health stigma is particularly harmful because it can prevent individuals from seeking the help they need due to shame.
Mental Health in Communities of Colour
Communities of colour face unique challenges when it comes to mental health. Racism, discrimination, and social inequality can all contribute to increased stress and trauma, which in turn can lead to mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the fact that mental health challenges are prevalent worldwide, with 1 in every 8 people, or 970 million people, living with a mental disorder in 2019, anxiety (5%) and depressive disorders (4.5%) being the most common, many individuals in communities of colour may still be hesitant to seek help due to the stigma and shame surrounding mental health needs.
So, what can be done to navigate the stigma surrounding mental health in communities of colour? Here are a few strategies:
Education Education can be a powerful tool in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. One way to achieve this is by encouraging open and honest conversations about mental health in community, workplace, schools and family settings, while also providing accurate information about the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Additionally, sharing resources and information about treatment options can be highly beneficial. Angie Agrawal Holstein, for example, recommends resources such as talking to your family doctor, calling telehealth, exploring BounceBack, a free government-funded online program that can provide assistance while individuals wait for services. Another option she suggests is Hard Feelings, a clinic that offers a certain number of sessions at a lower cost. Finally, individuals may also consider looking into private counseling services.
Support Support is crucial for those facing mental health challenges, and it’s essential to encourage communities to provide empathy and compassion for those who may be struggling. This could involve establishing support groups, offering peer support, or simply being available to listen.
From a cultural perspective, Angie Agrawal Holstein notes that many communities of color prioritize collective culture over individualism and autonomy, as is commonly seen in the West. As a result, individuals in these communities often value keeping their challenges within their families instead of seeking outside help from a therapist or doctor.
To overcome this, Angie advises individuals in these communities to seek out a trusted family member or friend when seeking support, which can help them feel more supported within their community and family. This approach can enable individuals to be more vulnerable and to better access the resources they need by harnessing the strengths of their support system.
Advocacy Advocacy involves speaking out against stigma and discrimination. Encourage your community to speak up when they encounter stigma or discrimination related to mental health. This could involve writing letters, signing petitions, or engaging in public advocacy campaigns.
Cultural sensitivity It is important to recognize the unique cultural beliefs and values of different communities. Mental health providers should strive to be culturally sensitive and aware, and provide care that is respectful of cultural differences.
Self-Reflection and Self-Care Angie Agrawal Holstein emphasizes the importance of developing awareness of one’s mental health. She suggests using the Three R’s – recognize, reflect, and rewire – to address persistent mental health issues as well as to manage everyday emotions. Reflecting internally can help identify triggers and stressors, and taking an inventory of the body’s pillars of health such as sleep, exercise, and social engagement is a good place to start. For those in communities of colour, Angie encourages seeking out a safe family member or friend to voice concerns and increase support. Seeking help can also involve calling helplines or walking into a clinic. Angie stresses the importance of taking one small step at a time and seeing what works best. By recognizing the signs, reflecting on one’s situation, and seeking help, individuals can take control of their mental health and well-being.
Mental health stigma is a significant challenge in communities of colour, but there are strategies for navigating these challenges. By educating, supporting, advocating, being culturally sensitive, and practicing self-reflection and self-care, individuals can work to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and improve access to support and treatment. Remember there is no health without mental health and seeking help is a sign of strength not weakness.
About Angie Agrawal Holstein
Angie Agrawal Holstein is a Psychotherapist and Owner/Founder of Shanti Psychotherapy, a mental health clinic in Toronto, Canada, specializing in South Asian Mental Health. She is dedicated to helping individuals achieve their full potential through personalized therapy and counseling services. With over 20 years of experience, Angie has a deep understanding of the unique challenges that individuals face in their mental health journeys. She is particularly passionate about supporting communities of colour and creating safe spaces for individuals to explore their mental health concerns and access treatment. In addition to her work at Shanti Psychotherapy, Angie also provides mental health education and training for organizations and schools. Her approach to therapy is grounded in the belief that healing is a collaborative process and that everyone has the capacity to create positive change in their lives.
To easily search, compare and book an appointment with a mental health professional near you, visit medimap.ca.