And sometimes, We Dance with Tears in Our Eyes: Black Folks and Mental Health

Ive seen too many people laugh when they need to cry, walk around it when they need to sit through it and leave when they should have stayed.

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In the African American community, not only is mental health taboo but its seen as a weakness that can be prayed away in the privacy of your own home. Whether it be anxiety and depression or more serious like schizophrenia and psychotic paranoia they get treated less often in the black community. The idea that the treatment of mental health comes with a self-stigma of weakness that turns into a public stigma of inadequacy and inability.

That if we can’t take care of our own minds ourselves what else can we “not” do? As black women, if were complain that something is not right or voice an unpopular opinion we’re sassy and full of attitude.As black men, if we show any type of emotion we’re called dangerous and aggressive and must be subdued.

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So instead, we seek social support in the form of social media generated memes about loving ourselves or moving on from the things that hurt us. Those memes never tell us that in order to get over something you have to first go through it and it’s okay to not go alone or to ask for help along the way. Sitting in the pain is often necessary.

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Whenever I attempt to comfort my friends I always refer back to the metaphor of a hot stove. Many times we go back to the hot stove and touch it thinking it won’t burn us this time only for it to reopen wounds that have yet to heal. Time after time we refer back to that hot stove because it once gave us all the nourishment we needed but now all it provides a reminder that we are hurt and need to give ourselves time to heal. 

Though there are psycho-social reasons such as poverty, socio-economic status and crime plaguing the African American community one of the biggest reasons African Americans fail to receive adequate mental health treatment are the providers themselves. Often times mental health providers fail to account for different stressors in different communities and therefore can not provide adequate treatment. Dr. Taylor a psychiatrist who frequents CBS’s “The Early Show” often discusses the gap between African Americans and Mental Health treatment citing “There are some health care providers who assume that…strife in black people or having a difficult time are what’s to be expected,”. The change starts with educating ourselves about mental health resources catering to our needs and abolishing the stigma that Mental Illness is just “CRAZY” spelled differently.

 

Our mindset has become hurt before we get hurt but that just leaves bruised hearts and broken souls raising our future.

Hurt People Hurt People.

According to the US HHS Office of Minority Health 

  • Because less than 2 percent of American Psychological Association members are Black/African American, some may worry that mental health care practitioners are not culturally competent enough to treat their specific issues.
  • Stigma and judgment prevents Black/African Americans from seeking treatment for their mental illnesses. Research indicates that Black/African Americans believe that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. Furthermore, many believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family.
  • African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispancis Whites.

There are so many resources available to us. We should never have to go through anything alone.

Mental Health Facilities Locator

Rehab Locator

Live Online Chat

1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-47247) Treatment Referral Helpline

1-800-273-TALK (8255) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

*photos curtesy of abundantlifepractice.com

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