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

Before I get started with this entry, I want to put my disclaimers out there. By now, most people who took the time to check out my blog should know that these are my thoughts and views, but there are a few who might take things differently. So here it goes.

I am not an expert, a therapist, psychiatrist, or any other type of professional in this field. Unless I specifically say it’s fact, everything I say here should be taken as my opinion, and not as professional advice or facts. I am doing this based off of things I have witnessed or personally gone through, and it is my hope to get people to start a dialogue, understand where mentally ill people are coming from and dealing with, and let other people who deals with the struggle of mental illness everyday know that they are not alone in this fight. 

With that out of the way, I’m going to continue with my discussion, but I will try not to be as long as the last one. I’m going to try to be straight to the point, not because I have nothing to say, but because I want to be a straight shooter with this point. I talked about that mental breakdown, and the downward spiral from there. I wouldn’t even call it a spiral; it’s more like a free fall. Everybody’s break is different; my break was falling into a deep depression where all I saw was death, and it took years to recover from that. I didn’t know how to deal with it; after all, it was brand new for me, and I was pretty young when it happened. I couldn’t talk to anybody, because I felt like no one could understand. Hell, I couldn’t understand it. To make matters worse, I didn’t even know how I even ended up that way in the first place (I have an idea now, but I will not share that on this blog).

After my diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2011 (I was previously diagnosed with major depression), I started doing my research. That’s when I learned just how deep of an issue it is in all of our communities, especially in the Black community. It’s an embarrassment to us; I didn’t really start disclosing it till years later, when I just said forget it because it is what it is. I started reading about how people felt they had nowhere to turn (like me!). Therapy is out of the question. Can you imagine what people would think if they find out you were seeing a shrink? Crazy guy! So we’re told to go to church, because church is the answer to all of our ills. I want to put out there that I’m not against going to church, and it’s a well-established fact that relying on faith and spiritual guidance can be therapeutic. The problem is people insists that church and prayer is ALL you need. As I said before, I believe that through prayer, God is directing you to find the right help, so you can cope, not the automatic magic cure that some religious people insist.

Medicine? Fuck that. Weed and alcohol. Other shit to get you higher than a kite. We live in a society where all of this shit is encouraged and glorified; for someone that’s mentally ill, it’s an attempt to escape. That’s another problem, a problem that gets us trapped. DUIs, possessions, repeat offenders, you name it. The system is already set up to entrap the Black man, as it is (call me irrational and paranoid, but you know as well as I do that it’s true). Now here we are, in the system, at the mercy of the judicial system.

I’ve never done any drugs. Not even weed. But I’ve done alcohol. I still drink it, especially a good glass of something brown. But because of my meds, I moderate it. But before, when I had my second real break (I had minor ones in between time), I was drinking every day, to block and drown the pain.

What’s my point? My point is we need to get out of this mentality that being mental ill is a sign of weakness. We need to stop stigmatizing, pick up some literature, learn about it, and learn how to be better friends and love ones. We need to encourage them to seek help, before the next episode. As sufferers of mental illnesses, we’re sick. In most cases, we’re sick for life. It’s not something that we can snap out of. It’s in our heads, but not in the ways you want to put in our minds. Instead of being dismissive, understand and be there. We don’t want to live in this pain and confusion. We didn’t ask for it, and we’re definitely not trying to sit in a pity party. It’s this kind of mentality that leads us to hide in our pain, dealing with it in silence and faking the funk. While we’re faking the funk, everything is bubbling underneath. We carry on with our lives, trying to “snap out of it”, trying to maintain some sense of composure. Then finally one day, we break. We don’t break just because. It’s always a trigger. A death. A break-up. Losing a job. Losing a home. Other traumatic events. Anything.

Everyone witnesses what’s going on and wonder how could this happen in the first place. They didn’t see the signs. There was no way they would’ve known. You could’ve known, if you only opened your eyes. The signs were always there, but when we tried to reach out to you, it was hopeless. We damn sure couldn’t turn to a therapist, because that was further confirmation that we’re crazy, especially if we’re put on medication. All the church could tell us is pray, and give us these motivational speeches that seem all great; if they were truly motivational, and not wrapped in the stigma itself.

As sick as it was, I think that’s what happened to our Facebook killer, Steve Stephens. Well, it was obvious that’s what happened. I’m not placing blame on anyone, and placing blame now won’t do anything. The signs were there and bubbling underneath, but because he either felt he had nowhere to turn or just didn’t want people to see it, he kept it in until he was triggered. Then he exploded. I don’t know him or anyone in his life, so I’m only speaking on personal speculation. Does it makes his crime justified? Hell no, not by any means. All I’m saying is that the signs must have been there for a while, and judging from what I’ve seen in the media, they were. But with him gone, we will never know.

Some of us lose this battle every day. In the next and final piece, I’m going to talk about that taboo subject: suicide. I hear people talk about suicide being a “white thing to do”. It’s not. In fact, an increasing number of black people, men in particular, are killing themselves. People say it’s a coward’s way out or that you’re going to Hell if you do. That’s another damning stigma we have to remove, if we want to save lives.

Until next time.

 

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