Mental health in the Black community is often viewed as a taboo topic. Kasim Abdur Razzaq, a St. Paul native and mental health professional, believes that the Black community in Minnesota, specifically, faces a “peculiar situation.”
Despite the cultural stigma and hesitancy in Black communities to seek out mental health services, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the murder of George Floyd, led to “a demand for resources that have been reduced considerably in terms of workers and institutions,” said Abdur Razzaq.
As the founder of Abdur Razzaq Counseling and Social Architect, Abdur Razzaq has provided culturally-centered therapy for individuals, couples, and families in the Twin Cities and surrounding areas for more than 15 years.
“When people come in [with their families and as individuals] to get therapy support,” said Abdur Razzaq, “they are trusting us with their story and we have a responsibility to hear that story, listen for the shared collective meaning and do what we were trained to do.”
Trust is a significant factor for African Americans who do wish to seek mental health support. However, Abdur Razzaq explained, “at the moment, there are mental health professionals who are available but haven’t gained the trust of the community. And then there are those who are trusted, but have a limited capacity in who they can serve.”
The lack of trusted and culturally-relevant services results in a cycle where many African Americans are overdiagnosed and misdiagnosed with mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia said Abdur Razzaq states. “People will often reject the diagnosis altogether, and then decide not to seek treatment for the things they actually need,” he said.
When assessing the mental health of a client, mental health professionals will look for clinically significant cases, or cases that show impairment to the baseline functioning or performance of an individual, said Abdur Razzaq.
“Overall, mental health symptoms are typically difficult to recognize because such feelings are part of the normative experience as a human being,” said Abdur Razzaq adding that “sadness, isolation, withdrawal, and lack of interest are all noticeable symptoms of depression, but they are also feelings that come and go with any individual.
“If left untreated, mental health symptoms can manifest into something larger and compound into multiple conditions at once,” said Abdur Razzaq. “It could even debilitate you to the point of having physical conditions, such as a stroke, which can lead to more physical challenges.”
As it relates to experiencing mental health symptoms in response to social injustice, civil unrest, the Derek Chauvin trial and the death of Daunte Wright, Abdur Razzaq advised the community to “take inventory of who you are, what your [emotional] capacities are and what your reactions are.”
“Identify and express your emotions,” said Abdur Razzaq. “But, find some good outlets to be able to express them in a way that brings you peace and resolution, and in a way that doesn't produce consequences that you are not ready to stand by.”
Abdur Razzaq reflected on his experiences relating to social injustice. “Over the past decade, one thing I’ve noticed is how people are finding a common cause in trying to leverage their talents and gifts to push towards resolving those issues,” he said.
“We get back to loving and supporting ourselves, and sharing our stories from our perspective, in a way that is not just told but heard,” said Abdur Razzaq emphasizing the importance of community.
For more information on Abdur Razzaq and his services, click here.