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Explaining Racial Trauma To A White Therapist Isn’t Always Easy, Here’s Why Seeing A Therapist Of Color Might Be Better

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness month, a time of year the U.S. Government designated to “bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face in regard to mental illness in the United States”. And with good reason.

Chilling statistics tell us that while 41.5% of children aged 12-17 received care for a major depressive episode, the percentage of minority children that received treatment is much lower, with 35.1% of black children and only 32.7% of Latino kids receiving care. The reasons behind this are varied. Not only are minorities more likely to be misdiagnosed and less likely to receive appropriate care due to clinician bias, but according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, minorities are also “less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to use emergency departments, and more likely to receive lower quality care”, due to a variety of socioeconomic factors. We know that mental illness is a cultural issue that permeates every aspect of society, so the problem, then, lies in awareness, diagnosis, and treatment. 

The idea of consulting a therapist for professional help seems like overkill, a little foreign, and definitely a little scary. We’ve all head the common refrain: “Isn’t therapy for crazy people?”. Not at all. Therapy is simply a way of practicing self-care and should have no greater stigma surrounding it than going to the doctor for a check-up. In 2017, a study showed that 18.9% of adults in the U.S. had a mental illness. That’s 46.6 million people! Statistics like this simply prove how much therapy could benefit the population. 

Luckily, we live in a time where millennials are no longer as afraid of talking about their struggles with mental health or afraid of getting outside help to deal with them. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, five times as many college students went to therapy in 2017 as compared to the years between 2011 and 2016. According to Peter Economou, a professor of Applied Psychology at Rutgers: “treatment has become de-stigmatized so people are more open to it”. But, we still have a long way to go. 

The Latino community, like many marginalized communities, is notoriously conservative when it comes to views on mental illness. As Twitter user @itsk80prince put it so perfectly: “talking about mental health in Latino families be like: “eres un emo?”. Many Latino families believe that problems should be discussed with a priest or maybe with your girlfriends during a round of chisme.

Before you start your search for a therapist, keep the following points in mind:

1. Do your research about their ethnic background and background in treating certain demographics.

There’s no shame in wanting a therapist who either looks like you or might come from a similar upbringing as you do. Often times, these are the therapists who can make us feel the most understood, related to and comforted. Having to explain racial trauma to a therapist who might not be able to relate or validate your feelings will undoubtedly bring you way more frustration in the end. “I’m a Latina who identifies as queer and started to see a white female therapist after I found myself going through a lot of depression while trying to get a job at a new company,” one woman explained to FIERCE in an interview. “All was well at first but after a while, I realized that talking about the frustrations I was experiencing were not being registered her accepted by her. For example, speaking to her about the frustrations of being interviewed by white men over and over again was okay but speaking about the racist microaggressions I would experience under my white female boss was always met with questions about why I thought my boss’s behavior was racist even at all. Ultimately I left her and started seeing a black female therapist who gets my situation so much more and I feel so much more validated.” 

2. Know the difference between a Counselor vs. a Therapist vs. a Psychologist

Counselors don’t require an advanced degree and, in fact, the term “counselor” kind of works as an umbrella term for therapists, social workers, and psychologists. Therapists, on the other hand, usually need a minimum of a Master’s degree in Psychology, Social Work, or Marriage and Family Therapy in order to call themselves a therapist. Psychologists are required to hold at least a Masters degree in psychology, with many opting for a doctorate.

3. Okay, so you want the Ph.D. Will you be needing a psychologist or psychiatrist? 

Newbies to therapy might not be aware of the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, so it’s good to keep in mind the difference before starting your search. While a psychologist assesses, analyzes and observes your behavior in order to alleviate mental stress, a psychiatrist does all of the above and is also a licensed physician, meaning they can also prescribe medication, such as antidepressants. 

If you’re really struggling with depression, anxiety and/or psychosis and your mood makes it hard for you to function in day-to-day life, then your problems may be caused by a chemical imbalance. Medication might give you the extra help you need to get your mood back on track.

4. Do you want this time to be solo?

It may not come as a shock to you to know that many people consider relationships to be one of the most stressful aspects of life. Consider couples or family therapy as an option if you feel like you need help mediating inter-relational problems, or even if you’d just like an outside opinion on your relationships. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) specialize in familial interactions and work on improving communication between family members. 

5. Identity matters.

Don’t feel guilty about preferring a therapist who understands first-hand the struggle that you go through on a daily basis. That means that if you prefer a therapist who identifies the same way as you do (gender, sexual orientation, race and/or ethnicity), it is completely within your rights to pick that therapist. If you’re more comfortable with therapist who specializes in LGBTQ+ issues or identifies as Latino, then that’s completely your choice.  

6. Utilize all of your resources. 

Remember, there have been so many people that have come before you that have been in your shoes. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals from open-minded friends and family members. Also, know that there are tons of resources available to you online. The internet is chock-full of lists, databases, directories, and networks, all created with the express purpose of providing mental health care to Latino and marginalized communities. Databases like this can point you in the right director. Or even ask your healthcare provider to connect you with therapists who identify the same way as you do.

7. Take your therapist for a test drive. 

If you’re worried about committing to a therapist straight of the bat, ask for a trial session first so you know if you have chemistry (or have the possibility of building a rapport) with your mental healthcare provider. Sometimes, everything about your potential therapist can look great on paper, but once you meet in person, the connection just isn’t there. 

Once you arrive, ask yourself a few questions: Do you like the environment? Does this person feel easy to talk to? Do you feel comfortable around this person? Can you imagine revealing some of your most painful feelings to this person? All of these questions can help bring clarity to what you’re feeling.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

It can be a little daunting the first time you step into a therapist’s office, especially when you expect your therapist to be the one asking you all of the thought-provoking questions. But, remember: this is your health, and you get to call the shots. Make sure you ask questions–what is the therapist’s approach? Psychotherapy? Cognitive behavioral therapy? Does your therapist use faith-based methods to supplement her practice? No question is too trivial, silly, or small to ask your potential therapist.

9. Make sure your therapist is licensed.

Last but not least, make sure your therapist is licensed by the state you live in. Becoming a licensed therapist is a strenuous process that involves a lot of schooling, clinical hours, and exams. So, although that man on the corner of the sidewalk giving out advice may have some interesting stuff to say, he’s probably not the best option for helping you get to your best self.

Video of Boy With Down’s Syndrome Hugging an Autistic Boy Goes Viral

Things That Matter

Video of Boy With Down’s Syndrome Hugging an Autistic Boy Goes Viral

videohub / Twitter

It may not be obvious to everyone due to misrepresentation in the media, but according to the World Health Organization, there are more than 1 billion people in the world who have some form of disability. That statistic corresponds to about 15% of the world’s population, which means that a large chunk of people on the planet are not adequately or accurately represented when it comes to the media. Thankfully, there’s been a recent uptick in activism aimed at shining a light on positive stories that center around folks with disabilities. As these movements are quick to point out, there is no one way to be disabled, and not all stories of folks’ with disabilities are sad or depressing.

This point couldn’t be illustrated any clearer than by the video that the Spanish Language Facebook page Jalisco Oculto shared on Friday. The touching video of two young Mexican students interacting with each other quickly made waves, but not for the usual shocking or click-baity content. What made this video different from the usual internet distractions was that these boys both had special needs. According to the video description, one boy had Down syndrome while the other had Autism. The video’s caption reads: “A Down syndrome boy with a huge heart comforts his autistic classmate in his own way”. 

The video quickly struck a chord with people, especially those who have family members with special needs. 

The video first shows the boy with Down’s syndrome playfully waving his hand in front of his autistic classmate’s face. The classmate’s face visibly expresses emotion and, in response, the boy with Down’s syndrome leans in and wraps an arm around him, giving the boy a hug. The autistic boy appears to become more emotional and leans into him, his emotions seeming to grow on his face. The boy with Down’s syndrome simply hugs him harder, at one point rubbing and patting his back and appearing to wipe away his friend’s tears. After they break the hug, the boy with Down’s syndrome continues to try and cheer him up, holding up both of his friend’s hands playfully, seeming to urge him to dance. 

The video became an almost instant phenomenon, wracking up 140,000 likes, almost 10,000 comments, and over 450,000 shares. Quickly, the video was shared to other social media platform like Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram, veritably taking the internet by storm. 

On each platform, people flooded the comment sections with stories of the empathy and kindness that their loved ones with special needs have shown them. One Twitter user wrote: “This child remind us that love is instinct and love is innate and that hate is taught”. 

The video seemed to resonate with people because of the unexpected friendship between these two boys. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one out of every 700 babies is born with Down’s syndrome in the United States. Additionally, the CDC estimates that one in 68 children in the U.S. have autism. Needless to say, this means that children with special needs aren’t “unusual” in any way–they are part of our community like any other child. 

The internet’s strong reaction to this video is proof that the world craves wholesome and uplifting stories. 

While the news inundates us with stories of horror and tragedy, it is videos like this one that show us a lesson we all need to acknowledge: that empathy and love surround us all, even if we don’t see it all the time. 

This woman made an astute observation about the high emotional intelligence of children with Down syndrome

Believe it or not, many of us have family members with disabilities. Many of us are disabled ourselves.

This person explains how mixed special needs classrooms can benefit all students 

There is no need to segregate students with special needs, like some schools have trended towards doing. As Ari Ne’eman of The Autistic Self Advocacy Network states,”Segregated schools lead to segregated societies. Inclusive schools give us the opportunity for inclusive societies”.

This person expressed his gratitude for having children with special needs in his life. 

As we mentioned before, not all stories of those with disabilities are stories of sadness and tragedy. Many are stories of love, kindness, and learning.

This woman expressed her admiration for the Mexican school that encourages behavior like this.

One could argue that this video went so viral because it showed the world behavior that we’re not shown very often. It would benefit all of us to act like the boys in this video and and express selfless empathy for no reason at all. 

How Is It 2019 And We Have Dads That Are Still Obsessed With Their Daughter’s Hymens?

Fierce

How Is It 2019 And We Have Dads That Are Still Obsessed With Their Daughter’s Hymens?

Last week rapper T.I. made headlines when he revealed his particularly disturbing brand of parenting. As the rapper detailed on the “Ladies Like Us” podcast, , the rapper boasted about keeping his 18-year-old daughter “pure” and said that he does so by accompanying her to her yearly gynecologist appoints. As if the whole interview couldn’t have gotten worse, T.I. proved his ignorance by saying that, despite all of the doctors in the world that says that the absence of a hymen does not provide viable of proof a woman’s sexual activity, he makes the doctor report on its status.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the sane people of the world to express their complete disgust and outrage over the statements. Users on Twitter and sexual assault experts were quick to slam the rapper for perpetuating toxic masculinity and shame amongst young women for their sexuality and bodies. The “Ladies Like Us” hosts even took down the original interview with T.I. in which he asserted that  “I will say, as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact” and health experts were quick to admonish the rapper for feeding into myths that are untrue and have greatly affected the lives of young girls and woman across the globe. After all, last year in October, the UN Human Rights, UN Women and World Health  Organization stated that virginity testing is a major cause for violence against women. 

For a better understanding of the dangerous effects of misunderstanding hymens, we broke down some facts. 

The Purpose Of The Hymen

When it comes to our understanding of hymens, it’s not uncommon for our first understandings of it to be linked to virginity and purity. We often are taught that “cherry’s get popped” or more blatantly that hymens are “broken” during first sexual encounters.  The truth, however, is that by the time most women have sex for the first time, their hymens have already stretched or torn as a result of different activities including the use of tampons, menstrual cups, physical activity (including gymnastics and horseback riding) or pelvic exams. 

According to Healthline, “Most females are born with a hymen. A hymen is a thin membrane that stretches across the vagina. It generally has a ring-like appearance with a small opening.” What’s more, the site explains that “there’s no real medical purpose for the hymen, although some think it may have evolved over time to help protect the vagina from infection.”

What we know about the myth that says the presence of a hymen equals a virgin

So, now that you know that the absence of a hymen does not necessarily mean that someone is a virgin, it’s time to dig into who started the rumor.  According to a recent article by Bustle, “It’s not entirely clear how or where the myth started originally…There are loose references describing the hymen as a cherry dating back as far as the 16th century…In more recent jargon the phrase appears to have come about in the 19th century based on the notion that a woman was ‘ripe for the picking’ if she was a virgin.Regardless of how it started, this myth of breaking the hymen or ‘popping the cherry’ persists due to a lack of understanding of the female anatomy and an ongoing lack of education about female sexual health and wellbeing.”

The dangers of virginity obsession 

When T.I. told the world about how he violates his daughter’s privacy by inserting himself into her sex life and making her take exams where are virginity is reported back to him, he put her in danger. For once, the idea that he felt he had a right to be privy to what she does with her body gives an impression to others that they have the right to her body as well. What’s more it feeds into “purity culture” which only generates toxic mindsets and situations for women and sexual assault survivors. In a 2013 interview about her kidnapping, survivor Elizabeth Smart who was kidnapped at 14 years old in 2002, said that she felt worthless after she’d been raped by her kidnapper for the first time. “I think it goes even beyond fear, for so many children, especially in sex trafficking. It’s feelings of self-worth. It’s feeling like, ‘Who would ever want me now? I’m worthless,'” Smart explained in a speech. “That is what it was for me the first time I was raped. I was raised in a very religious household, one that taught that sex was something special that only happened between a husband and a wife who loved each other. And that’s how I’d been raised, that’s what I’d always been determined to follow: that when I got married, then and only then would I engage in sex. After that first rape, I felt crushed. Who could want me now? I felt so dirty and so filthy. I understand so easily all too well why someone wouldn’t run because of that alone.”

Of course, Smart’s case is an extreme example of the effects of purity culture and clinging to hymens proof of virginity but the truth is that we have to stop policing women’s bodies and how they choose, and when they choose to have sex. It’s no one’s business but their own.