More African-Americans Seek Therapy After Traumatizing Year of Police Shootings and Civil Unrest

Jamil Stamschror-Lott, center, the co-founder of a mental health practice in Minneapolis, leads a community healing session. He said the demand for therapy had “gone through the roof” over the past year. (Credit…Caroline Yang for The New York Times)

In the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, mental health experts across the country say they have seen African-Americans, whose skepticism of therapy has been documented by research, seeking it in growing numbers.

Jamil and Sara Stamschror-Lott, the founders of Creative Kuponya, a mental health practice in Minneapolis just minutes from where Mr. Floyd, a Black man, was murdered, said the demand for therapy had “gone through the roof” over the past year. The couple said 31 percent of their practice’s clients are Black.

“We’ve seen everything that the nation has seen from afar, from folks in civil unrest and devastation, despair,” said Mr. Stamschror-Lott, who is Black. The couple said that some residents were overwhelmed and exhausted by the events of the past year, and that there remained a “great deal of pain and trauma.”

Researchers have often found a hesitancy toward therapy among Black people. A 2013 study found that they were not very open to acknowledging psychological problems and were concerned about stigma, especially Black men. In 2007, researchers called the underuse of mental health services among Black people a “serious concern.”

That skepticism is part of a broader mistrust of the medical establishment by Black people, whose illnesses are more often misdiagnosed compared with other groups, researchers said. Historically, groups of Black people have been exploited by the federal government for medical studies. Black patients also tend to receive lower-quality health services, including for cancer, H.I.V., prenatal care and preventive care, according to research.

However, there are signs of changing cultural attitudes toward seeking mental health treatment.

Douglas E. Lewis Jr., a clinical and forensic psychologist in Decatur, Ga., said he was seeing more Black people willing to seek therapy now than in the past.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Derrick Bryson Taylor

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