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Why I Was Disappointed by How 'Black-Ish' Portrayed Therapy

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Mr. Anthony Anderson,

I really do love your show, “Black-ish.” I’ve seen every episode of it and many of them more than once. Specifically, your episode regarding police violence against people of color gave me goosebumps. I watched it over and over and was pretty upset when it was no longer on demand. Not many shows are brave enough to do what your show has done and you’ve done it with so much class.

To be honest, I hoped you would talk about mental illness at some point. You have painted yourself as an advocate for people with mental illness and those struggling with addiction. But honestly, when it finally happened, the of “Black-ish” led to me cry for about an hour and a half. I’m talking about season three episode 13 called “Good Dre Hunting.” Clever name. You focused on therapy, something I attend every week. This was a great opportunity for you to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to your mental health advocacy. Mental health is an important issue for people of color. Serious mental illness can be hard to deal with when you get help, so I can’t imagine how hard it is to do it on your own.

When you started the episode, you acknowledged the stereotype, and I sat in front of my TV with my emotional support animal hoping to see an episode as well-planned and thought-out as your episodes about serious issues plaguing the African American community. After all, this issue affects all communities, not excluding people of color.

I waited. I waited through the stereotypical responses from the people at work and the normal pushback to anything that could be perceived as weak. I waited through all the little nips poking “harmless fun” at the idea of therapy. It was a comedy after all and I wasn’t trying to be overly-sensitive. Like I said before, I really do love your show.

Then came the end part, where your character and your onscreen wife were laying in bed. This was your chance to break free from the stereotypes. Or if nothing else, to explore therapy as it exists unrelated to mental illness. You know, it would’ve been fine with me if you painted therapy as a way to deal with stress, because even this would’ve gone a long way to show therapy in a positive — or at least a neutral — light. Instead, Bow stated she was mentally ill and your character replied “me too” severely. Your characters had a rough day. I can sympathize. I know a lot of people know what it’s like to come home and just cry. Showing strong characters — especially men — crying is great. I’m all for it. Bust down those stereotypes. But this does not mean that you’re mentally ill.

I wasn’t diagnosed with mental illness because I cried one time about something upsetting. I developed my first compulsion at age 8 when I rubbed all the skin off the bridge of my nose. My dad threatened to put a big Band-Aid on it. It didn’t work and to this day, 11 years later, I have not fully gotten over this compulsion.

I thought my mom would die if I forgot to say “I love you.” I would get nauseous if we didn’t leave the house exactly when we said we were going to. My mom called a little bit later than she said she would after my grandfather’s back surgery and I knew he was dead. I had already started mourning. Do you know how terrifying that is for a kid? For an adult? And your characters just continued with their same old lives and routines. That’s not how mental illness works. But now it’s out there and no one is talking about the fact it’s such a misrepresentation of an entire community of people. I’m just disappointed you squandered such a great opportunity to make a point and send a positive message about mental health.


A 19-year-old with OCD

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Originally published: May 11, 2017
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