Seeking Help When You Need It

JUL. 21, 2017

By Elise Banks, M.S., LPC


Growing up, my parents would always say a specific phrase if we were discussing something only meant for our family: “This is family talk.” The phrase was a way for my family to establish boundaries around topics that were private. Because when they said this, I knew I was not allowed to talk about our discussion with anyone outside our immediate family.

Many of us in the black community are taught from an early age not to share personal and/or family information with others. For some, it’s a sign of weakness. Many do not want to be judged. For others, the resources for proper support simply are not there. Although this mindset helps keep people from “being in your business,” it also deters individuals from getting the mental and emotional help they need.

Statistics show that many minority groups do not seek psychological treatment when needed, with African-American men being least likely to seek help. There are a variety of reasons why this is, but I believe one of the reasons is the tendency to keep issues “in the family.” And this cultural standard made sense to me until the age of 21, when I suffered a meaningful relationship loss that left me distant from my family.

No one knew the pain I was going through except for my parents and as a family, we knew I needed to see a therapist. However, this directly contradicted the “family talk” boundary we always maintained. At first, we did a few family sessions with a licensed therapist at our church. This was a helpful transition for us, as we did have some hesitancy towards seeking a counselor.

When we were referred to a private practice, I was terrified. I thought: “Is there something wrong with me?” “Am I going to be judged?” “What if this person can’t help me?” Thankfully, my parents were completely supportive and encouraging, even requesting individual sessions for themselves as well. “Family talk” seemed to be no more.

Going to therapy for the first time was extremely uncomfortable as I talked about very personal issues to a stranger. On top of that, I was studying to become a therapist. I felt like a failure having to see a therapist when I was training to become one myself. Little did I know, my therapeutic experience would be life-changing. I learned more about myself, made improvements to our family dynamic and developed more compassion and empathy.

My parents and I grew closer as they learned to move from “helicopter parents” to mentors and guides as I became an adult. They also learned how to support me when I started to feel overwhelmed in life. They continue to be an amazing support system to this day. Looking back at this time allows me to see the growth I made with my family. It scares me to think what would have happened had my family and I decided against the help of a therapist.

So, I have made it my life’s work to make sure that all individuals, including African-Americans, know the resources available to them if and when they are needed. It was not until the age of 21 that I saw the value of a mental health professional, and now I encourage people to get the help they need. The first step towards treatment can be scary, but it is worth it.


Elise N. Banks, M.S., LPC is clinical psychotherapist in private practice and a private school in Houston, Texas. As Miss International 2015, Elise was asked to be one of the first NAMI National Ambassadors. She also serves on the NAMI Texas Board of Directors. When Elise is not working or advocating, she travels domestically and internationally to speak on mental health topics affecting children, teens, and adults. For speaking requests, you can reach Elise at


JUL, 25, 2017 09:18:32 PM
Alex Terrones
I have a situation which involves a 29 year old Autistic/special needs adult. My best friends mother passed away 20 years ago & left a 200,000. dollar inheritance to take care of this child at the time. His brother who was the assigned guardian misspent the money & dropped off the child at the mothers sisters house. She has been staying there for the last 20 years. The legal guardian is now deceased, he passed about 2 years ago. My friend is her brother too & he would want custody of Arcica Gomez. Every time my friend visits her she cries to go with him. I dont think the aunt has guardian ship but due to time lapsed she has been staying at the aunts home and the aunt wont let her go with her brother Armando Gomez. I am sure they are ignorant of the laws & rules on custody & guardian ship. He says the house is full of *****a roaches & mice & is in bad shape to live in. Especially for Arcica..He needs to know the correct way to gain guardian ship of his sister. A surprise visit by the authorities should prove our story is correct & valid. Armando has a home a large yard & a wife with 3 wonderful teens. The in laws live upstairs & I can say they are a wonderful family. Arcica cannot afford to live at the current abhorrent location any longer. The aunt is senile & dementia has set in, but has not been diagnosed with it to confirm it. Please advise what is the best way to start the process to get this Autistic & vulnerable person out of this home and into a better home which can be provided by her brother. Thank you for your assistance. My sister Carmen Casas Terrones who works for the State advised me to reach out to you.

JUL, 24, 2017 09:05:02 PM
Hi I am an aunt speaking out for my nephew. He is 22 and he was diagnoised with schizophrena when he was 16. On 7-18-17 his mom called the Erie County Police, so they could transport him to a mental health facility, so that he could get help due to him hallucinating, being paranoid, and having disorganized thoughts, but they transported him to prison. Now he is being charged with disordely conduct and resisting arrest. His bond is 100,000 dollars and it seems like no one will fight for him. I will not give up on him; he is not a criminal.

JUL, 21, 2017 03:36:11 PM
Kimberly Ferguson
As a black woman who is bipolar for 24 years. I never had shame. I revealed and healed. I wrote three books to educate people,share my testimony for years in Alabama. I keep addressing it. Blacks must stop suppressing it. I am not the norm. I am in college to be a high school teacher to teach the youth the truth. The black church tradition is to pray it away it has kept most in the same condition. Many are self medicating as a coping mechanism.

Submit to the NAMI Blog

We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.