Let’s Talk About Mental Health In the Black Community: Part One

I’ve been quiet over the last few days, but I have been keeping up with the latest events. I could talk about a million things on this Wednesday night, but I decided to begin my many talks about mental illness, especially in the Black community. Mental illness affects all races, nationalities, and genders equally, but it seems that Black people deal with it in a particular way, and it’s not good.

What made me decide to talk about this is because now it’s back in the forefront due to the incident in Cleveland, Ohio on Easter Sunday, where Steve Stephens; who was clearly mentally ill; killed Robert Godwin in broad daylight, then posted the video of it on Facebook, supposedly in the name of his ex-girlfriend. Before I continue, I want to put it out there that I am not defending or justifying what he did in the name of being mentally ill. I have no sympathy for him, and I unfortunately saw the video, which made me very angry and sad. There was simply no reason for this innocent man to die this way. I only wish that Steve Stephens was brought in alive, simply because I feel that he needed to see this large and beautiful family right with his own eyes, and deal with the consequences of his actions. I don’t know what happened with him and his ex, but I’ve been in an extreme emotional state that was further piled on because of a mental breakdown because of a break-up, but I wasn’t, and have never been, brought to the point of feeling like driving around and killing people. There’s simply no excuse.

But I’m not going to stay on that particular subject for the entire blog, though I will reference it from time to time. I will break this particular topic into parts, but this definitely won’t be the only time I will talk about this and topics like it. In these discussions, I will talk about how these type of situations only make it worse for us, especially Black men, to come out and seek help or discuss with friends and family about our illnesses. I found myself a few days ago trying to explain this very thing and it got shut down with the typical stigma that causes us to keep our illnesses to ourselves in the first place. I hate when people insist that you like being in this state of mind, and you need to snap out of it, and people are putting this in your head. No, it’s a real thing. I’m sure everybody has heard the comparison to physical illnesses, such as cancer. Guess what? It’s true. You wouldn’t tell a cancer patient that it’s all in your head and you like being in the pain of cancer, and you need to shake off the negative effects of the chemo. Does that sound ignorant? That’s exactly how it sounds to people dealing with mental illnesses.

For Black people, it’s worse. I say it’s worse is because by our very nature, we’re supposed to be tough. We most likely came from religious backgrounds, so what ever is wrong with is can be cured by the power of prayer. I hate that too, especially since I believe that God is going to send you in the direction to get the help that you need, not cure you of the disease. We’re told our whole lives that people who are mentally ill are either crazy or making shit up. Believe me, I know. I believed the same thing; till I finally accepted my diagnosis. We’re supposed to carry on, because we have to overcome so much as it is. That’s the problem. A lot of us have to deal with impoverish situations. Very few of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths. A lot of us came from neighborhoods with crime. Very few of us came from gated communities in the rich part of town, living like the Banks from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. A lot of us had to grow up fast; not many of us had the luxury of having families with trust funds that would send us to the prestigious colleges. So all of those stacked against us, you can see why our own mental health is pushed to the back burner.

Then eventually it all comes crashing down. We have our first mental break and it all goes down from there. In my next part, I will talk about these breakdowns, the consequences, and how friends and family can either help us or break us. I will also talk about how we, as a community, can help address these issues, and help fight the stigma.

See you next time.

 

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