Mental Illness in the Black Community

There is so much to be said about how black people handle mental health.  Most of us are told to “pray it off” or “there ain’t nothing wrong with you.”  Prayer is heavily used in the black community to handle mental illness, it is not always effective.  READ IT AGAIN!  I know someone reading this might want to curse me out but I’m just here to bring facts.  What if I told you, you could pray and seek treatment from a therapist?  Now some of the devout saved folks will disagree with me and that’s okay but why not?

Mental health is a topic often disregarded in our community.  There is this narrative that “black people don’t commit suicide” or “black people don’t get depressed.”  Black people have to stop blaming everything on the devil.  Seriously,  stop it!  That logic has been long used to credit the devil for unfavorable actions in the black community.  How can we let a fictional being have so much control and credit over what we, as free-willed, people do?  It’s irrelevant.  Stop using that as an excuse.  That narrative is old and tired  and I am simply over it because it’s all a lie.

I AM CURRENTLY DEPRESSED.

And no, I’m not suicidal.  Depression is more than just suicide.  Not all depressed people self-harm or commit suicide.  But you wouldn’t know that from the smile on my face or my daily interactions with people.  Let me break this down for you.

I am still a very happy person and I enjoy the same things I enjoyed before I was depressed but I have some days I just don’t feel like myself.  I don’t feel like combing my hair or going out of the house.  And yet, I can be depressed and still want to play with my kids.  I can be depressed and still have a desire to be intimate with my spouse.  I can be depressed and be just as productive as if I was not depressed.  But that’s not the point.  The point I am trying to make is that you can be depressed and still function as you normally would but don’t let that impact your mental health.  Take care of yourself.  See a therapist.  Write down your thoughts and emotions.  Meditate.  Pray.  Exercise.  Repeat.  Do what works for you to combat depression because what you shouldn’t do is let the stigma of seeking help stop you from being your best self.  You are so much more than your depression.

Mental health starts and ends with you.  It is time for a generation of black people to start the discussion about the importance of mental health and offer resources to help those in need.  The narrative has to change to create a comfortable space for black people to come forward and open up about mental illness.  That time is now.

One comment

  1. Those words people say HURT! You know they mean well, but we just have to chalk it up to ignorance.I, too, got tired of hearing that it is the “enemy” or the “devil.” The enemy is the disease. I was part of a support group one time and found that it was hard for the black people to trust in a group. I pray every day that all people can understand each other and accept one another so our country will not be divided especially when we come together for support. It isn’t easy to open up to others about mental health issues, but it is so helpful once you dare to do so. Parents need to let their children know about mental health problems so that they don’t ignore symptoms in themselves if they come along. We have to stop the feelings of shame that can come with the disease and be aware of what our kids are going through. We don’t need to lose young lives. I wish you well in coping with your illness and thank you for sharing that there is a cultural difference. Peace be with you.

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