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Art Imitates Life

A men’s group therapy session from a screenshot in an episode of “The Chi.”

By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer

Hollywood is known for creating fantasies and false narratives, but the entertainment industry does keep it real sometimes, particularly in its efforts to help eliminate the stigma of mental illness. Mental health awareness for African Americans has found its way into popular TV programs with creators and showrunners including storylines that see main characters seeking therapy or having characters be mental health providers. Other shows feature therapy in other ways.

Filmmaker and show creator Lena Waithe deserves kudos for normalizing therapy by incorporating it into series like “Twenties” and “The Chi.” In a “Twenties” episode titled “Happy Place,” the main character, a queer Black woman named Hattie, played by Jonica “Jojo” T. Gibbs, seeks therapy to understand her father’s absence and its impact on her relationships with men. On “The Chi” after one of the show’s main characters, Kiesha Williams, portrayed by actress Birgundi Baker, is abducted and becomes pregnant from the sexual assault, she is seen in multiple episodes visiting a psychologist.

She also encourages her family to work on their issues. Kiesha’s mother and her wife also see a therapist throughout the series’ six seasons. The main male characters also participate in a circle discussion, meant to help them support each other.

On “Queen Sugar,” the lovingly protective Hollingsworth “Hollywood” Desonier, played by Omar Dorsey, creates and funds a space for men to gather and uplift each other called The Real Spot, after being injured on an oil rig and successfully suing his employer.

Directed by Debbie Allen for most of its six seasons, “A Different World” took on a number of serious issues including apartheid and divestment, domestic violence, date rape, and colorism. In an episode titled “Ex-Communication,” its resident Southern belle, Whitley Gilbert, played by Jasmine Guy, visits a therapist to help her through relationship woes. Allen plays the exasperated therapist who helps her find clarity and tells her to “relax, relate, release,” which becomes a mantra for many that is still used to this day to help center one’s self and get through a tough or trying situation.

Screenshot from an episode of “Living Single” showcasing Jasmine Guy, left, and Queen Latifah, right.

Screenshot from an episode of “Living Single” showcasing Jasmine Guy, left, and Queen Latifah, right.

In an episode of “Living Single” titled, “Shrink to Fit,” Khadijah James, played by rapper-turned actress Queen Latifah, seeks out a therapist to deal with things she’s going through. The therapist, Dr. Bryce, is played by “A Different World” actress Jasmine Guy.

On the series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” actress Charlene “Michael” Hyatt portrays a therapist, Dr. Noelle Akopian, who provides her client with a safe space to examine her feelings and underlying problems.

Screenshot from an episode of “In Treatment” showcasing Uzo Aduba in her role.

Screenshot from an episode of “In Treatment” showcasing Uzo Aduba in her role.

On HBO’s “In Treatment,” award-winning actress Uzo Aduba, best known for her role as Crazy Eyes on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” plays a doctor who offers care to patients, while battling her own demons.

MTV’s Couples Retreat highlights celebrity couples. Pairs have included “Love & Hip Hop” stars Joc and Kendra Robinson, R&B singers Ronnie and Shamari DeVoe, and Raymond Santana, one of five Black teens wrongfully convicted of a violent attack in New York’s Central Park in 1989, and “Flavor of Love” alum Chandra “Deelishis” Davis.

The show is hosted by actress-turned wellness and life coach, AJ Johnson and relationship coach Tony Gaskins, who call in a number of experts to offer advice to the couples.

WEtv has similar shows, “Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition” and “Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Reality Stars.” Couples get relationship advice from Dr. Ish Major and Judge Lynn Toler. Past pairs have included Soulja Boy and Nia Riley, Monie Love and Tony Tuff, Mally Mall and Tresure Price. Ray J and Princess Love, and Waka Flocka Flame and Tammy Rivera.

This article is part of the Senior Staff Writer Genoa Barrow’s special series, “Head Space: Exploring the Mental Health Needs of Today’s Black Men.”

The post Art Imitates Life appeared first on The Sacramento Observer.

The post Art Imitates Life first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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