In the Black community it has become a defense mechanism to be full of strength and that mental health is a weakness. It is shameful to be clinically diagnosed by a doctor with any sort of mental illness. We are not able to speak openly to our relatives about all of our feelings. As children we are conditioned to be seen and not heard. Often to be told that feelings of hopelessness and depression are ” White people ” problems. We are made to believe that we are exempt from mental battles. From birth it is instilled in us to ALWAYS remain strong and not allow the outside issues of the world affect how we react to trauma and loss. When in actuality Blacks are 20% more likely to suffer from severe mental issues than other races. So many factors play a part into why the issues are not being treated properly or not at all.
The most common issues recorded are:
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- PTSD ( Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) because Blacks are more likely to be victims of heinous crimes
- Rising suicide rates in young Males
Even with these major illnesses there are so many factors that stand in the way of proper help.
- Only about one-in-three who suffer seek the help needed
- Most are afraid the stigma surrounded by mental health
- Recent studies show that 19% of Blacks are not covered by any health insurance
- It is a known fact that Blacks are often discriminated against in the health care system
- Lack of culturally competent providers
- Lack of Providers from diverse backgrounds
- The issue of provider-patient trust
The questions I often ask myself is why? Why must we continue to allow ourselves to suffer in silence. Why is it that we don’t see ourselves valuable enough to take care of ourselves mentally ? Is it so hard to reach out for help or to have at least one person we trust enough to confide our need for help in? The lack of health care provided to Blacks is sickening. How can you not provide mental health services to those who need it ; or when its provided patients are still not provided with enough coverage to afford services or even the medications needed to help with cures and stabilizing their illness. In some cases services are not provided with the medical options given to Blacks. I start to also factor in the fact that we have to learn to take care of one another. Provide help to each other and be an example for the children we are raising to be aware of what they think and feel and how it affects their daily living. We have to stop taking things people tell us in confidence and using it as leverage to continue to hurt each other . It only brings us down and damages more.
I have personally suffered with Depression at a point in my life. I was dealing with being a young mother, in a verbally and mentally abusive relationship. I felt hopeless and very alone as often times people do . I felt as though I couldn’t go to anyone about the help that I needed or maybe I was just in denial at that moment and felt that i’d be looked down upon. I attempted suicide and I will be the first to say that it was not a failed attempt, but in that moment I made a decision to be stronger then my mental health issue and seek the help that I needed. I had medication until I was ready and felt stable enough to stop. I sought out counseling and will openly admit I didn’t speak much at first. I thought ” what could this stranger tell me about myself that I didn’t already know “? I came to the agreement with myself that I needed to learn to face things head on and that if I ran from what I felt or was dealing with it became my weakness. And my strength came from accepting what was happening and taking the steps to help MYSELF.
The road of a mental health struggle is difficult but we have to stop being afraid of what someone will think about us if we admit we struggle like everyone else, we have hard times, we get sad, cry or even scream. I’ve learned it is OKAY ! to feel all of these things as long as I know when to take the steps necessary to seek help when provided and when needed. I encourage those of you suffering in silence to seek help, talk to a trusted friend or relative. You are not alone !!
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)