Best Health : 2020-11-01

STORIES : 42 : 40

STORIES

STORIES FROM THE GAP Navigating the health-care system as a person of colour. I’VE HAD MENTAL illness in my life since I was 12. I write that with the same ease as when I say “we’re out of eggs” or “the internet bill is due.” It’s part of my reality and its dropins — mostly triggered by stressful life events or Canadian winters — generally don’t weigh so heavily on me anymore. But even when it gets pretty bad, I rarely look for profession­al help. I’m sure this is not a wise choice, but it’s an active one. Because though I have worked with mental health profession­als in the past, I haven’t found one who’s helped long term. My therapists all had something in common — they were well-meaning white people. After certain sessions, I felt drained, as if I was a learning resource that a therapist could mine for their own experience. After others I felt more alienated than before, hungover from having to lie and make my background palatable. I didn’t get the satisfying combinatio­n of exhaustion and relief that my therapy-going friends seemed to get. I don’t question that my therapists had good intentions or that they were trying to help. The difference between then and now is that I can call good intentions for what they are: not good enough. More than ever, mental health care is an urgent need for racialized people, especially Indigenous and Black communitie­s. Research shows the repetitive stressors of inequality and discrimina­tion lead to declining mental health. Yet BIPOC access mental health services less often and face more hurdles before and during the process of receiving care, compared to their white counterpar­ts. It doesn’t help that there are few BIPOC therapists in North America — a recent American study found that 88 percent of the health service psychology workforce is white; therapists I’ve spoken to say counsellin­g in Canada is By JUDY ZIYI GU TALK TO ME I NEVER CONNECTED WITH ANY OF MY WELL MEANING, WHITE THERAPISTS. THE TRUTH IS, GOOD INTENTIONS ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.