I’ve been sharing my mental health experience for four months now and while developing posts I often think about both my triumphs and troubles when it comes to things like how I now relate to my community and how my experiences with mental healthcare providers directly impact me. I believe the care you receive from mental health professionals is often a reflection of your self-care; however, there are exceptions. Recently, I’ve pondered the fact that in times when I did not feel as though I was receiving what I thought was proper, culturally competent care from mental healthcare professionals, I was not doing everything in my power to properly care and advocate for myself as an individual. How does my self-care impact the care I receive from mental health care professionals?
A Whole New World
Prior to my manic episode and diagnosis, I had a few therapy sessions with a white female therapist who I did not click with or relate to. I was new to therapy and had no idea what to expect, but I knew that I was not supposed to leave in worse shape than I came.
When I first began seeking help roughly ten years ago, all my providers were either males or white women. It was something that I had not given much thought to until I began networking for my blog. Currently, there is a rise of African Americans in mental health. I see more African American mental healthcare professionals on social media than I can count, but in my experience, I haven’t been in the care of very many African American mental healthcare professionals.
I’ve had one African American female provider and my experience with her was not pleasant. At the time, I wasn’t taking great care of myself. I would have appointments with her in a community clinic because I was uninsured. She always prescribed the cheaper, older medications. They didn’t work as well and I experienced horrible side effects, such as weight gain, exhaustion, and irritability. I now understand that my being uninsured prevented her from being able to prescribe the newer, more effective medications and that she was in an extremely difficult position.
Women Helping A Struggling Woman
In college, I had an African American female therapist and I grew leaps and bounds in her care. She reminded me of my mother; caring but as real as they come. I was also inspired by the fact that she was older, but fresh out of school. As a college student who knew I would not be graduating in four years, I admired her tremendously for not letting age deter her from her goals. Not only did I relate to her as a woman, but I related to her as a black woman. I’ve had white female therapists who helped me beyond anything I could ever explain and they were what I would consider culturally competent. They were closer to my age and really seemed to understand me. I was able to relate to them because they had been in my shoes as young women and as struggling college students.
I do not believe that simply because I am an African American woman that my provider has to look like me, but culturally there are things that men and white women do not understand, which makes it harder to get the proper care. I said harder— not impossible! In my experience, I’ve seen how the more I’ve matured and become more diligent in taking care of myself, the better my experience with mental healthcare professionals has become.
It Starts With You
To anyone struggling with connecting with the right mental healthcare professionals, I challenge you to take a look within and make sure you’re doing your part as an individual, as a patient, and as a client. Managing and treating mental illness takes teamwork and you are the starting player!