Gabourey Sidibe is an open book in her memoir "This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare." The "Precious" star is candid about an array of issues that have shaped her life, including her relationship with her hair; the abuse she endured at the hands of her father; the doubts she had about gastric bypass before undergoing the procedure; and perhaps, most importantly, the importance of seeking counseling.
Throughout the book, Sidibe is honest about the multiple times in her life that she's sought therapy. She also advocates for other people, especially Black people, to seek counseling as well.
Her mental-health issues began as panic attacks. After her parents separated, Sidibe felt overwhelmed by a number of family issues, including her father marrying his cousin, becoming responsible for her younger brother, and moving into a small room in her aunt's brownstone.
It all became too much for her.
"That was the summer my panic attacks started," she wrote in her book. "I remember crying and complaining that I couldn't breathe. It's easy to see now that with my parents' separation, my new stepmom and brother, moving into my aunt Dorothy's house, my fireworks accident, the antibiotics I had to take for my foot — along with the diet pills — life was out of control for me."
The panic attacks became more frequent for Sidibe in middle school. In high school, they snowballed into an eating disorder.
However, Sidibe didn't realize she was depressed until she began attending the City College of New York.
Her mother told her that going to church would ease her depression. "Praying away the sadness" is a common barrier for Black people with mental illnesses. A study cited by the American Psychiatry Association found that 85% of African-Americans are "fairly religious" or "religious" and consider prayer their go-to stress reliever.
After she began having panic attacks again, Sidibe opted to see a counselor.
"I was a college student and poor, which meant I had really good healthcare," she wrote in her book. "I found a doctor and told her everything that was wrong with me. I'd never run down the entire list before, but as I heard myself, I could sense that doing this on my own was definitely no longer an option."
Sidibe's psychologist prescribed her an antidepressant and assigned her to dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which she described as a "cognitive behavioral therapy designed to help treat borderline personality disorder."
Although she didn't have borderline personality disorder, the therapy proved to be the best treatment offered for her insurance. But when Sidibe told her mother and her brother about her mental illnesses, both suggested that she go to church.
The 33-year-old actress learned how to navigate depression and curtail her eating disorder, but it didn't disappear. She still sees a therapist, and by being vocal about her own issues, she's encouraging other Black people to seek therapy as well.
Faith is not a substitute for mental health treatment, yet it's often touted as the cure-all.
There's nothing wrong with being in therapy.
Sidibe's story proves it.