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"Praying Away" Mental Illness in the African American Community

By: Brandon L. Lowe CCSI, MS, LPC, LCAS, MAC, CSOTP

My name is Brandon Lowe, I’m a therapist and owner of a mental health agency (Knew Era Consulting PLLC) in Winston Salem, NC.  I have experience spanning over 11 years in the field of psychology and therapy.   I currently hold state licensures in the state of North Carolina as a LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) and a LCAS CCS-I (Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist, Certified Clinical Supervisor Intern).  Additional certifications/licensures are, MAC (Master’s in Addictions Counselor) and CSOTP (Certified Sex Offender Treatment Professional).

The traditional approach to mental health in the Afro-American community in America surrounds the notion of “praying away” mental health, which has caused a tremendous amount of trauma within the African-American community even to this day.  The root of the issue may be more complex than originally thought, once you have a better understanding of Black history within America.  One could easily blame the medical miss-treatment of Afro-Americans throughout history as one of the main contributors.  There has been a major mistrust between the Afro-American community and the medical world where the Black community has been maliciously used as testing samples throughout history.  Examples of mistreatment and unethical procedures would be the Tuskegee Experiment in Macon County Alabama (1932-1972) where Afro-American males who had syphilis (sexual transmitted disease) were treated with placebos (aspirin) rather than given penicillin to cure their condition.  The Black men’s undisclosed purpose wasn’t for the purpose of finding a cure, but to observe the disease’s full progression as many of the Black men died, became blind, and/or experienced severe health issues as a result.  Another mistreatment would be the sterilization of Black women (7,600 women) from 1929 to 1974 in North Carolina.  Many of the individuals were sterilized due to being diagnosed as mentally ill or mentally deficient.  Medical mistreatment of Afro-Americans are stilling being reported today in the medical world.  Many Black individuals have lost any faith or trust in man, and feel like they can only depend on the most high (God) to deliver them from their problems and illnesses.  This mindset has helped contribute to the notion of “praying away” problems and illnesses rather than seeking treatment.

Being an Afro-American therapist, my desire is to make the African American community feel more comfortable at expressing themselves by getting the treatment they need rather than thinking about the historical flaws of therapy within the Black community. Praying away the problem isn’t a bad concept, but faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).  The works part is within therapy, via learning solutions to cope properly to the mental health issues in which present themselves.  Mental health issues may involve a chemical imbalance and/or irrational ways of resolving challenges.  Therapy is a process and it is essential that the therapist and client build a trusting therapeutic relationship.   

Comments

I confess that I'm new to accepting my diagnosis with bipolar as well as bpd and from all the research to date I'm a poster child for both I've spent 36 years alone in the darkness of my mind and all the pain and suffering that comes with it in those 36 years 3 years I was happy and free I was in prison where I found the Lord and clung to him with all of my being not for fear of the walls and people inside the walls that was a blessing it was people I understood my disorders in side those walls seemed to vanish I was at peace and then I was released and my life went back to darkness in every way the disorders could and it stayed that way for a very long time the Lord has touched my heart and soul and guided me through all I've been threw in my life to write this today the story is very long and I would never have wrote a single word ever had my faith and trust in the Lord not allowed me or told me that as I have so much to offer and give to all who suffer as me my family has so much to offer and I must FIND the help with therapy and meds so that I can lead the way for my daughter she suffers like me but shall never know my sufferings

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