As an African American male, social issues are some that seem to be a part of our everyday life at the time of birth. Whether it’s our skin being threatening towards other groups of society, police brutality, not receiving the same education, jobs, or housing as those of other cultures; it’s something that burned into our part of growing up and learning how to maneuver the world around us. Being that this is something that is thrown in our face time and time again, I would like to talk about the trust or lack thereof, between “professional helpers” and African American males. You must first stop and take a look at the deep roots of past and current events that lead to African Americans not trusting the help that’s provided by doctors, lawyers, therapists, etc. For example, historical adversity, which includes slavery, sharecropping, and race-based exclusion from health, educational, social, and economic resources, translates into socioeconomic disparities experienced by Black and African American people today. Socioeconomic status, in turn, is linked to mental health: People who are impoverished, homeless, incarcerated, or have substance use problems are at higher risk for poor mental health.
Despite progress made over the years, racism continues to have an impact on the mental health of Black and African American people. Negative stereotypes and attitudes of rejection have decreased, but continue to occur with measurable, adverse consequences. Historical and contemporary instances of negative treatment have led to a mistrust of authorities, many of whom are not seen as having the best interests of Black and African Americans in mind. The culture from which many African Americans are raised, has a greater distrust of the medical helpers and medical offices alike, from the belief of racial bias. A great example is that of the Tuskegee experiment, where the abuses of slaves by white doctors, simply for the use of medical experimentation. There was no sense of consent or refusal from the African American participants to participate, just because of their lower level in society and the mass discrimination during that time. It’s those issues of the past, that resist black males from seeking the help they truly need, in order to bring them back to the feeling of self and self-worth; and to add a more recent impact, just look at the COVID vaccine, many are skeptical of receiving it, just because of what happens at Tuskegee. Despite progress made over the years, racism continues to have an impact on the mental health of Black and African American people. Negative stereotypes and attitudes of rejection have decreased, but continue to occur with measurable, adverse consequences. Historical and contemporary instances of negative treatment have led to a mistrust of authorities, many of whom are not seen as having the best interests of Black and African Americans in mind.
Most importantly, one must be willing to understand how having a multicultural view while helping the individual, can gain the trust of that individual, so that they will be open and true. The proponents of multicultural psychotherapy advocate for cultural sensitivity that is, awareness, respect, and appreciation for cultural diversity. This valuing of diversity promotes a critical examination of established psychotherapeutic models and assumptions because definitions of health, illness, healing, normality, and abnormality are culturally embedded (Wedding & Corsini, 2014). Having those in place that look, walk, talk, having the same mindset, and historical experience as those they are wanting to serve will go a long way with gaining that trust, which is so much needed. Mentor ethnicity, as well as an interaction between mentor ethnicity and participant level of cultural mistrust, were found to be related to perceptions of mentor credibility/effectiveness. In addition, mentor ethnicity and cultural sensitivity were found to be related to perceptions of mentor cross-cultural competence (Grant-Thompson & Atkinson, 1997).
The goal of positive social change for this study is to break the stigma of mistrust between African Americans and that of “professional helpers,” by using those services and the fear of being labeled weak, crazy, or being taken advantage of by the unknown. Because as previously stated, the distrust is so heavy, it makes it harder to believe that someone of the other race will actually want to help them not only succeed but ease the pain that keeps them from living a normal life. That form of distrust isn’t only hard on the client, but it’s even harder on the professional helpers. Having to build that trust doesn’t just happen in one session; “Providers must build a therapeutic alliance that will preserve the masculinity and cultural identity of African American men and will ultimately allay the cultural distrust associated with the health care system and acknowledges psychosocial stressors that are sensitive or rather unique to the African American male and the culture alike.
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