The 2020 Emmys had a lot going on — a historic win for Zendaya, an epic shut down by Kerry Washington, and touching acceptance speeches galore. My personal favorite moment? Watchmen writer Cord Jefferson thanking his therapist, Ian, as he accepted his award for Outstanding Writing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special.
“Thank you to my therapist Ian,” he said. “I am a different man than I was two years ago. Therapy should be free in this country.” It was a sweet moment — Jefferson was clearly beyond excited about his win — and it was also a huge win for the movement to normalize taking care of your mental health.
This actually isn’t the first time the journalist-turned-scriptwriter has advocated for free therapy. Jefferson also spoke about it on The Color of Change podcast with Gia Peppers back in July. “I try to shout out my therapist as much as possible,” he said. “Every Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., he’s my dude.”
He continued, saying: “Taking those moments are incredibly important for everybody, but I think particularly for people of color. For a long time people of color have not been given that opportunity to feel like they should take care of themselves in things like therapy. I’ve been the biggest proponent for that. It’s changed my life for the better.” Jefferson said that “things would change overnight” if therapy was made free and available for all. “I do think that everyone should go and that it should be much less expensive than it is,” he said.
And Jefferson is right. Normalizing therapy and making access to it easier for people of color is essential, given that those in marginalized groups are often carrying around the weight of intergenerational trauma on their shoulders — not to mention the additional stress of the past year. Among other things, people of color have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and have had to endure watching people in their communities fall victim to police violence.
We may not be getting universal free therapy any time soon (although our fingers are crossed) but normalizing getting the help you need is critical. “I think it’s important to reach out and ask for help when you need it,” Anabel Basulto, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Kaiser Permanente, previously told Refinery29. “Talk to a doctor, to your friends, and don’t be afraid to admit you’re in trouble. A lot of people have shame around these mental health topics, and we need to remember that it’s okay to normalize it and talk about it.”
Having access to therapy is a privilege that Jefferson acknowledges. And he’s right, the world could change for the better if we were all given the help we need. For now, the fight for free and accessible mental health care lies in our votes — hopefully, it’ll happen sooner than we think.