In the recent episode of Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots (HAHN) – a television drama on the OWN network – the Cryer and Harrington families portrayed the lives of rich, upper class families dealing with issues such as suicide and homosexuality. These two topics have been the focus of much media attention over the past few years. Mental health impacts a significant portion of the population and does not discriminate against racial or cultural groups. However, some groups are less likely to seek out therapy or professional help to cope with life stress.
Those close to me know that I consume a lot of my free time being a “t.v. junkie”. That is when not busy with work or other professional leadership duties. With that being said, the last episode of the HAHN (which happened to be titled – In Crisis) had me on the edge of my sofa with my mouth agape. The HAHN has been one of my favorite shows since it first began. Tyler Perry has done an amazing job crafting the characters and the plot for each episode. As I watched the “In Crisis” episode this week, I could not help but to put my “psychologist cap”.
Sorry to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen this season or the most recent episode. There was so much going on in that episode from the Cryer family coping with the death of their daughter Amanda to the Harrington family being divided about accepting their son Jeffrey’s sexual orientation. The show concluded with David Harrington pleading with his wife (Veronica) to not push their son to be straight because it may result in him committing suicide due to the pressure. At that point, I could not help but see the reality that so many people especially African Americans face when it comes to coming out to their family. In the African American community, the church is often an important aspect of life. Yet some in church are unwelcoming to people of different sexual orientations. It is typical that (African American) people don’t talk about sexual orientation or they condemn it (Human Rights Campaign; HRC, 2015).
People who come-out, often get the following common reactions from friends or family:
Why is acceptance important? Research notes that for African American gay and bisexual males are significantly affected by negative consequences (e.g., poor mental health, sexually transmitted infections) that contribute to risk of poor health and this stress impacts their overall well-being (personal communication, Wilson, September 2014). The American Medical Association states that most the emotional problems among gay and lesbians is due to alienation/unacceptance in their environment. You can probably now see why David wants his wife to also accept their son. I can’t wait to see how things turn out for the Harrington family.
If you have a child who has come-out or know of someone else who has dealt this coming out, here are some resources that may be helpful:
Copyright Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D. 2015
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Human Rights Campaign (2015). A resource guide to coming out for African Americans. Retrieved from http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/resource-guide-to-coming-out-for-african-americans
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Dr. Turner is a licensed psychologist with expertise in behavioral pediatrics, child mental health, disruptive behavior disorders, and minority mental health. He is also certified as a National Register Health Service Psychologist.