• Tara Johnson

The Color of Suffering in Silence


Growing up in an environment where it is customary to ignore problems and struggles that ail you, it is of little surprise that when an unseen and intangible struggle impacts your thoughts and feelings one tends to ignore that as well. I can recall when my own daughter was struggling emotionally and was not able to share her struggles with me. I offered her the benefit of counseling, to which she positively responded. She immensely enjoyed her sessions and found freedom in being able to speak her truth without feeling judged or as if she was letting anyone down. One day, getting ready for her session a family member inquired about our outing. When shared she was going to therapy, the family member had a not-so-positive response. The family member thought it was a betrayal of the adage “what happens in this family stays in this family, ain’t nothing God can’t fix”.


Now, I did not take offense with the family member’s response as generation upon generation in the African American household has relied on God and their faith to get them through life’s struggles, emotional and physical, of which I do not discount or deny. However, God provided us with medical professionals to assist with physical ailments, why would He, in His infinite wisdom and love for us, not also provide mental health professionals to assist with mental/emotional ailments. According to Turner (2012) an individual within the African American community can be seen as “spiritually weak” by family members for either not enduring until the situation changes or completely ignoring the emotional impact until its hidden deep within the recesses of one’s mind. Either situation, coincidentally, leaves the individual with a sense of loss and disconnection not only from society but also from oneself. According to Mental Health America (MHA), (n.d.) serious mental illness (SMI) rose among all ages of African American people between 2008 and 2018 creating an increase in major depressive episodes from 9 percent to 10.3 percent in African American youth ages 12-17, 6.1 percent to 9.4 percent in young adults 18-25 - to include a rise in suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts among this age group, and 5.7 percent to 6.3 percent in the 26-49 age range between 2015 and 2018.


My motto, when interacting with my clients, is simplistic and realistic in that it states: Even if the situation does not change you can change your response to the situation! To learn how to change one’s response in any given situation one must first learn how to manage one’s emotions. If you have never been taught how to be emotionally aware, how does one learn? Licensed professional counselors are not in the business of living life for their clients but empowering clients by offering a different perspective in the hopes of changing their cognitive processes. When one changes his or her thoughts, behavior and speech must follow as negative thoughts lead to negative speech and what one releases into the atmosphere becomes one’s behavior. Receiving counseling from a trusted and trained professional is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength because you made the choice to be unapologetically healthy mentally and emotionally. Traditions do not always change with time, but as time changes, we can grow into the traditions that identify us where and as who we are intrinsically!


Turner, E. A., PhD. (2012) African Americans and Therapy: The role of religion on coping and use of mental health services. Retrieved February 7, 2022, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-race-good-health/201211/african-americans-and-therapy.


MHA (Mental Health America). (n.d.) Black and African American Communities and Mental Health. Retrieved February 7, 2022, https://www.mhanational.org/issues/black-and-african-american-communities-and-mental-health.

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