Miss International Elise Banks Speaks Out On Busting Black Mental Health Stigma

Elise Banks Miss InternationalElise Banks has beauty, brains and a heart for the people. As the reigning Miss International and a clinical therapist, Banks uses her Healthy Mind – Successful Life platform to break the stigma associated with mental health, particularly the stigma experienced within the Black community.

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“The minority outreach is extremely important to me,” Banks expressed in a recent interview at the 2016 National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) National Convention. She added, “Historically, minorities are least likely to get help for mental or emotional reasons, and within that, African American men. It’s even less common for them to reach out.”

In 2015, Banks became a NAMI national ambassador and has spent the last year focused on speaking out about mental health to break the stigma. Not only does she speak from her experience as a psychotherapist, but she understands firsthand how mental illness can affect families. Many people in need of help are reluctant to seek any, but Banks works to spread the message that getting help is actually a sign of strength.

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She explained, “Just like we go to the doctor for any physical issues that we have, seeing a mental health professional for your mental or emotional issues is just a way of saying, ‘I’m going through something. I need help,’ and allowing that person to come in and give you strategies and different tactics to overcome what you’re going through.”

Having to deal with present day hate crimes and racism, Banks believes “African Americans should feel comfortable seeking mental health treatment – now more than ever.” However, seeking treatment is still very much taboo to some.

For Banks, breaking some of the common beliefs that perpetuate stigma and incorrect thinking that go into why some may be slow to seek help is important. In a blog post for NAMI, she shared her thoughts on three key barriers to care within the African American community and how we can work to overcome them.

1.“It Stays in The Family”

In the black community, we are often told that what happens at home, stays at home. This rule is important if you want to maintain a boundary around a family’s personal business, however it’s important to know when professional help is needed. Just like how you take your car to get serviced when its issues are beyond your scope of knowledge, mental health professionals are trained to help individuals and families with mental health issues that are beyond a family’s expertise. What is truly wonderful about therapy is that the sessions are completely confidential. So whether you go to a private practice or a clinic, you don’t have to worry about anyone finding out your reasoning for seeking the aid of a professional.