Jean Semelfort Jr., a Ramapo alumnus and African-American clinician, led a discussion identifying the aspects of mental health therapy that deter people of color from seeking help.
The event last Thursday was sponsored by the counseling services, Ebony Women for Social Change and Brothers Making a Difference as part of African Ancestry Month. Semelfort assessed the difficulty of the black community to “expose vulnerability” when they are not conforming to stereotypical behavior traits.
Some struggles brought up in the discussion included financial struggles and the underrepresentation of African-Americans in the therapeutic fields. Underrepresentation makes people of color, specifically African-Americans, feel uncomfortable going to professionals that may be able to help their problems. Semelfort gathered that having someone in the profession that “looks like you” makes it easier for individuals to ask for assistance.
Some students shared that the fear of being judged by peers and family members is heightened for the black community because of their own family and peer social expectations.
“I’m very happy that people are becoming more aware of these issues,” said MarDaziah Taylor, freshman.
Another main issue discussed was stereotyping, which can be considered the most dangerous offender for African-Americans seeking mental help.
According to Semelfort, many people of color are not only faced with outside standards, but also expectations from family members. Neither of which allow people of color to feel comfortable speaking to friends or family about possible issues.
The discussion also brought up the stereotype of African-Americans being hyper-aggressive or emotionless, which makes them remain silent when faced with mental health issues. However, others are becoming more open and pushing past those boundaries in order to better themselves and stop the unhealthy stereotyping