Although more than a decade into her career, psychologist Stephanie L. Moses had a realization. She was already aware of the stigma that accompanies therapy and mental health issues, but one thing stuck out. Even today at the Texas Tech Family Practice Center in Odessa where she practices, it’s still noticeable.
“I didn’t see people who looked like me,” she said in a phone interview. “In this field, there is huge stigma of diagnoses and treatment, but then there is this added cultural aspect to it. Often, if we talk about it, it’s weakness. I want to let people of color know there are others out there and to get proper treatment.”
But beyond not seeing people of color seeking treatment, she saw fewer women of color, which translated to women may not be searching for help if they need it. And so, Moses, 39, decided to write about it. Her book “In Session” follows four women of different ethnic backgrounds battling their own untreated mental issues and embracing psychotherapy. What Moses hopes to stress is that silence isn’t strength when it comes to mental health.
As to why diagnoses and treatment are hush-hush among people of color, Moses’ opinion is that it boils down to culture and generational beliefs, but also the misunderstanding that depressions or anxiety aren’t physical symptoms.
“I don’t profess to understand all cultures, but in my experience, it’s not OK in many of them. There is this ‘suck it up’ mentality. But also, in many minority cultures, elder family members may seek only religious beliefs to pray it away but that can sometimes be a barrier in getting help.”
The stigma increases for women. Moses said people will dismiss women’s issues as illogical because they are deemed more emotional. Women are empirically diagnosed with mental conditions at rates much higher than men, she said.
“I want it to reach adults who have either experienced therapy, have questions about or are thinking about it,” Moses said. “I feel as though change could start with the readers who can identify with these women.”
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