Overcoming the stigma of mental health on the road to wellness

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Therapists say mental illness is no different than a common cold, but so often when our minds are sick, there’s shame attached to it. They say the stigma is much stronger for Black men.

La-Quan X. Bates is a men’s personal stylist and visual manager in luxury retail, he knows how to make the outside image look great.

He’s been styling men for well over 10 years.

“There’s something about somebody when they look good and feel good and they present themselves differently in the world,” Bates said.

Two years ago, Bates could just tell it was time to mend his mental health. For years he’s been helping men search for the perfect look, but COVID made him realize the had to look past the clothes and search for the image of his mind.

“It has honestly been life-changing,” said Bates. “Somethings got to give and that’s when I started reaching out to my current therapist now. These thoughts and then there’s trauma from childhood that I haven’t really addressed in my adult life.”

Which is pretty typical, according to licensed psychologist and author Dr. Bedford Palmer. Palmer is based in Oakland and says his clients are People of Color, primarily Black men.

There’s a stigma around Black men and mental health. Dr. Palmer says less emphasis should be placed on whether Black men resist therapy and focus on why.

“There are a lot of messages that say that Black men are lacking in some way,” Dr. Palmer says. “That can get caught up in the way we talk about mental health, as if Black men are doing something wrong.”

Palmer says the reality for Black men is that the world doesn’t always want them, and the very existence of a Black man creates trauma, like getting racially profiled, encounters with police and getting looked over for jobs or promotions.

For decades, Blacks have been mentally and physically abused by society, Palmer says. He says it gets internalized and leaves racial wounds and trauma in the mind. It’s not surprising to him that Black men harbor feelings of mistrust

“We get caught up in this concept of bootstrapping, where we’re supposed to pick ourselves up,” Palmer says. “We need to take whatever support, whatever help that everybody else is taking so we can survive the same way as everybody else. We’re worthy of that, we’re owed that.”

For Bates, talking about mental health has never been an issue for him and he had not issues sharing it even with his clients.

“Just knowing who La-Quan is and that’s something I didn’t quite know before,” said Bates. “Just slow down and take care of my mental health”

Mental illness is real and affects everyone, whether we choose to address it or not,” said Palmer.

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