Overcoming the stigma of mental health towards wellness

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Therapists say mental illness is no different from the common cold, but as often as our minds are sick, there’s shame associated with it. They say the stigma is much stronger for black men.

La-Quan X. Bates is a mens personal stylist and visual manager in luxury retail, he knows how to make the look look great.

He has been styling men for over 10 years.

“There’s something about someone when they look and feel good and they present themselves differently in the world,” Bates said.

Two years ago, Bates could just see that it was time to improve his mental health. For years he’s been helping men find the perfect look, but COVID made him realize he needed to look past the clothes and look for the image of his mind.

“It’s been really life-changing,” Bates said. “Something has to be given and then I started contacting my current therapist now. These thoughts and then there’s a childhood trauma that I haven’t really addressed in my adult life.”

That’s pretty typical, according to licensed psychologist and author Dr. Bedford Palmer. Based in Oakland, Palmer says his clients are people of color, primarily black men.

There is a stigma surrounding black men and mental health. dr. Palmer says there should be less emphasis on whether black men resist therapy and focus on why.

“There are a lot of reports that say black men are missing out in some way,” says Dr. palmer. “That can get caught up in the way we talk about mental health, like black men are doing something wrong.”

Palmer says the reality for black men is that the world doesn’t always want them, and the existence of a black man creates traumas such as being racially profiled, encounters with the police, and being looked at for jobs or promotions.

For decades, blacks have been abused mentally and physically by society, Palmer says. He says it becomes internalized and leaves racial wounds and trauma in the mind. He is not surprised that black men harbor feelings of mistrust

“We get caught up in this concept of bootstrapping, where we have to pick ourselves up,” Palmer says. “We must accept any support, whatever aid everyone else gets, so that we can survive in the same way as everyone else. We are worth it, we owe it.”

For Bates, talking about mental health was never a problem for him and he had no problem sharing it, even with his clients.

“Just knowing who La-Quan is and I didn’t quite know that yet,” Bates said. “Take it easy and take care of my mental health”

Mental illness is real and affects everyone whether we choose to address it or not,” Palmer said.

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