While depression is a mental health condition that knows no economic status, age or geographic boundaries, cultures do have different ways of experiencing and coping with depression. As an African-American and a resident therapist at Christian Theological Seminary Counseling Center, where I focus on marriage and family therapy, I realize that ethnicity can play a significant role in depression.
The good news for African-Americans is that our population tends to experience lower depression rates than people of other races. Strong familial relationships and the support experienced through a sense of kinship, contribute to lower depression rates for African-Americans.
However, research also has found that African-Americans may suffer from more persistent forms of depression. Socioeconomic struggles, and unfounded comparisons to dominant culture experiences, can lead to a sense of hopelessness and an individual’s misguided belief that a situation will not change.
Faith can be a strong contributor to mental health. In addition to my counseling practice, I am a pastor at Roberts Park United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. I believe individuals who believe in God have a tremendous advantage, because they have a sense that a higher and more capable power is at work in their lives.
People of faith may sometimes substitute faith in place of accessing mental health services. Within the African-American community, there is a cultural mantra that needs to be quieted when it comes to depression. While faith can provide a sense of hope, people may suffer needlessly when they refuse to acknowledge the situation or assume that depression is God’s will for their lives.
The hardest decision most people make is contacting a counselor and showing up for the appointment.
Finally, individuals need to consider family therapy instead of assuming depression is an individual issue. While families may identify one individual’s behavior as the cause of discord, problems are often the result of a confluence of personalities, and therapy is a way of avoiding blame while helping improve relationships.
A common question asked by those entering therapy is how they will know if therapy is working. My response is, when they experience some relief from the issues that brought them to therapy, and also begin trusting their internal voice more, that means progress is being made.
King is a resident therapist a Christian Theological Seminary Counseling Center.