I found my own strength through facing my weaknesses. Without them I would be powerless.
WHAT DOES MENTAL HEALTH IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY LOOK LIKE?
It looks like avoiding discussing your problems because mental health isn’t always understood in general and in the black community its taboo. No one wants to be labeled as crazy or needing a therapist, psychologist, etc. that’s just how it is. A large portion of black homes are not very open to acknowledging psychological problems so in turn it looks like hiding your thoughts and feelings because you don’t want to burden your family with more problems on top of the problems they already have. It’s not our faults though, most people can’t seek the help they need because the finances just aren’t there, we’ve also been taught to normalize our trauma and suffering. The idea that mental illness isn’t real and that religion is the cure to all are two of the most prevalent misconceptions about mental health in the black community. Mental health isn’t deemed as important as other sicknesses, disorders, etc. It goes beyond depression and suicidal thoughts and behavior. There are people who suffer from life-threatening mental health disorders on a daily basis, PTSD, bipolar disorder, OCD, anxiety disorder, and major depressive just to name a few. But they get swept under the rug and overlooked; exposure to mental illness, and increased knowledge of mental illness are factors which could potentially change beliefs about symptoms of mental illness.
I studied Psychology in college and I’ve also been a Mental Health Worker so I was able to go beyond the scopes of what high school may teach. It’s likely that the topic of mental health won’t even be taught until college because psychology is not a course that’s often put into K-12 curriculum unless you’re taking advanced classes. A lot of people aren’t given the opportunity or resources to attend college. So we don’t know how to deal with what we’re feeling when it goes beyond the average ill feelings of being upset. When it goes beyond being down and then you’re down for months and have been having these thoughts of ending your life or hurting yourself.
For so long we’ve been taught to be strong as little black babies being pushed out of the womb we’ve been instilled with the will to fight to protect who we are. Raising black Kings and Queens, that when we exhibit a moment of weakness we run in hide of fear of judgment. “What will they say?” “What will they think” No matter what you do in life people will always laugh and snicker and talk behind your back but none of that compares to the importance of your mental health. Your mind is who you are, don’t lose it trying to uphold this image of dominance. You are still dominant, you are still royalty, you are still you, and you still matter.
Seek help when you feel as though you can no longer manage your thoughts alone. If you are in college there are many resources on campus. Take advantage of the wellness and health centers; they take it out of your tuition regardless if you visit so why not benefit from it. Ask questions, talk to your family and friends and make sure that they are okay on the inside. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to seek advice. Use your resources to research. Keep yourself whole and not half. Practice self-care and take care of you always.
Befriend yourself, self-love and self-care are two very important things to take into consideration when battling things like depression and anxiety. Self-care isn’t always about doing what makes you feel good, self-care includes making tough decisions, asking for help, allowing vulnerability, and quite frankly enduring the pain of not only being honest with yourself but with your loved ones as well about what you need to be a better you mentally and emotionally.
Make yourself available to your circle of friends and families even if it’s only for a few minutes, be a listening ear. I’ve found that when I’m on the verge of becoming depressed, physically writing out how I feel is helpful. Self-reflecting is a good habit to obtain, sit down and talk to yourself and see how it makes you feel. I myself have battled with my own demons of depression and ill thoughts but I mustered up the power to turn it into fuel to be something great. Not everyone is built mentally to fight the battles that come with suffering from your mind being attacked.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, each year 44,193 Americans die by suicide. On average there are 121 suicides per day with men dying 3.5x more than women. Let’s hug and love on our children and brothers and sisters, cousins, mothers, fathers, etc. a little longer and harder tonight. A simple “Are you okay?” may be enough to save someones life. Mental health issues are real and we have to work towards erasing these stigmas that often exist in minority communities.
Thanks for Reading, Be Blessed & Stay Humble.
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