THE GROWING CONCERN OF MENTAL HEALTH WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY

September 11th, 2018 | by Michelle Fitzgerald

Have you ever woken up in the morning and asked yourself “What is this life all about? What’s the purpose? And Why?” Have you ever gone through the motions and tried to figure out what’s even the point of it all? I’m sure everyone has. I believe it is natural thought process sometimes when you are unsure or unmotivated by life

This previous month I lost one of my best friends. We had been best friends since I was 12 years-old. The grief from losing them caused unbelievable sorrow. And no, I’m not talking about a human, I’m talking about my dog. Yes, a dog was my best friend. Losing him made me think those thoughts ironically. It made me realize that the past 14 years of my life I had suppressed and redirected my emotions constantly because of the comfort of having a pet. This past month made realize how exactly my mental health has been impacted by me being a black woman in this society.


The recent conversations around mental health within the black community has been a constant one within the past few years especially on social media. At this very moment, you can go on any social media site such as Facebook or Twitter and you will probably see someone advocating for it.


Even though, conversation and dialogue is a great way to discuss these problems, many simply do not understand the magnitude of disparities within the black community when it comes to such things.


I cannot count the many times I’ve seen people denounce prayer and say “Go get some help!!! Go to a professional!” And my follow up question is always “Do any of you all have professional help money?” As my mom would often say to me when I would ask her for stuff when I was little. It is extremely difficult to get adequate access to mental health care in general. However, triple that difficulty with social economic factors in play and that’s what it’s usual like for most black bodies here in the US. Not only, do we not have access in general because of the wealth and education gap. When a black person does decide to go to see a professional, they’re often mistrustful of the health staff and met with inadequate cultural experiences. Meaning, that most black people are often misdiagnosed because not only because the lack of diversity, also because of the racist stereotypes that have been put on said group throughout the years.

 

For example, if a white stay at home mom went to a therapist and explained that they were depressed. They didn’t feel like doing their duties as a mother and they were just in a bad mental state. It’s natural to feel for that white mother. However, let a black woman who have children and say the same exact notion as state before, she would automatically be frowned on. This is not assumption, just real life. Black people across both genders have been stereotyped to be strong. That a sign of complaining is a sign of weakness. With all the woes in this world being depressed or deal with mental issues doesn’t have room.


In simpler terms, as a community we don’t look at mental health as a necessity. We have been programmed, simply by survival that no matter what we feel life must go on. I’m guilty of this myself but it’s simply the truth. Being crazy (humorous erratic behavior) is normal. However, being crazy (schizophrenic, bipolar, depressed, having multiple personality disorder) is grown upon and to many especially elders it’s simply an excuse to not deal with tangible life.
With all the intangible oppression that black people deal with on the day to day the finite seems out of order. I don’t even believe as a race that black people realize how oppressed and depressed we really are. Especially black women.


Every morning (especially when I was younger) I obsessed about my hair. I always would make sure that my hair is on point because the state of my hair is the state of my mood. Also, because I just can’t simply get up and go unless it is braided or done in a style that I don’t have to comb, it takes me longer to get ready in the morning. Which I’m sure every black woman that read this can understand what I mean. Then if you have corporate job, you must correct your speech, e.g. not talk black. You must conform to the work environment. If you work with people who aren’t diverse you deal with the passive aggressive, implicit behaviors. And when it’s all over with there’s still the stigma that you are supposed to do it all. Which isn’t real. But it’s been made real because that’s how most of us have been reared. In layman's terms by many of my elders, mental health is simply seen as a white person problem that we as black people don’t have time for.


In conclusion, yes mental health is important. The conversation around mental health with in the black community is huge one. However, in many cases the realistic goals on how having access to them is not often discussed. The wealth gap and lack of healthcare makes it difficult to gain access to proper mental health outlets and professions. Coupled with the fact that most who are in that field may not always have their proper cultural tools to diagnose properly or even understand certain cultural situations, widens the mistrust between patient and doctor.

 

Intangible things such as prayer and religion are strong within the black community because essentially that’s all most have. Especially those who are from older generations. Even with access to a good doctor, talking to someone about mental health is taboo even today with all the resources that are available. There isn’t a right or wrong way to go about seeking help for your mental state. However, compassionate traits such as being a good friend, treating others the way they want to be treated, not discouraging someone from engaging in healthy coping mechanism and ultimately being transparent can leave one without many regrets if your love one were to sub come mental health problems.

Michelle Fitzgerald is a blogger for CSUITEMUSIC.com

Michelle is based out of St. Louis, Missouri

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