Isn’t it time to disrupt the stigma of “therapy while Black?” Let’s bust myths, answer questions, and decide for ourselves.
The dust has settled on the last season of powerhouse Issa Rae’s Insecure. As a mental-emotional health advocate, and African American woman who actively transcends past trauma, I already miss this cultural game changer.
Unabashedly broaching topics like open Black marriages, societal expectations for Black people to answer every “Black” question, and the repercussions of being a “strong” Black woman, the hit dramedy was fresh and courageous.
But one key reason I’ll miss Insecure is how it normalized therapy for Black people.
The subtle way it introduces it is so true-to-life.
The show follows protagonist Issa Dee and best friend Molly’s tribulations as fallible, REAL Black women. The first time therapy becomes a plot point is Season 1, Episode 7, when Molly’s old friend Crystal resurfaces.
In a quick chat on a bridge, the former self-proclaimed “hot-ass mess” exuberantly tells Molly she’s doing ah-mazing: She’s joyful, “centered,” loving herself, and looking “effervescent.” (Aside from the confusingly stiff wig.)
Crystal “fixed some things in her life” and started seeing a therapist.
At first, neither Molly nor Issa are sold on it—unless we count each one distancing herself from the idea to sell it to the other. 🙄
But by the start of next season, Molly decides to give this therapy thing a shot… although she’s still in full-on “defense mode.”
Sitting across from her therapist, Molly—closed-off and still obviously skeptical—curtly describes everything and everyone in her life as “fine” and “good.” 😓
As the seasons progress though, we see Molly finding value in therapy. And we’re allowed behind the veil of other Black characters’ mental-emotional hardships—like Tiffany’s postpartum depression and Nathan’s bipolar diagnosis.
And there’s no sensationalism to be found anywhere.
Insecure broaches these topics in a gentle, authentic way that helps normalize mental health for “us” as humans in Black and Brown bodies. It has honest conversations about mental wellness without it ever feeling preachy.
And without stigmatizing the characters for going through “regular life shit.”
Black and Brown people face traumatic experiences daily. From microaggressions, to career-based code switching, to being portrayed negatively in the media on a regular, shit stays real. And all of this stress and negativity takes its toll.
Prolonged stress is toxic to our health, keeping us in a high-alert “survival mode” intended to be temporary. This “fight or flight” mode is designed to activate just long enough to get us out of harm’s way.
So what happens when high stress is a lifelong condition?
Health erodes. Rational thinking, empathy, memory, and more start shutting down to funnel our energy to, well, literally surviving.
We start having problems with sleep, digestion, immunity, and numerous other crucial functions.
Another important reason to prioritize Black psychological wellness is that it’s constantly under attack. Necessarily, the healing process looks different when trauma is ongoing. We need to stay ahead of the game.
A therapist can help determine recovery strategies to use when we can’t distance from our stressors, like—oh, I don’t know—recurring maltreatment based on race, sex, or orientation.
As season 5 unfolds, we see Molly finally starting to enjoy life and realize what’s important. She herself seems more calm, grounded, and centered as she figures out how to focus on “Molly.”