Let’s Talk about Black People & Mental Health
Mental health is becoming a national rising topic, as it is surfacing more concerns. According to MentalHealthAmerica.net, over 44 million people have a mental health disorder and 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. These statistics are worrisome but what are we doing about it? Unfortunately, 9 million people in the United States are not getting proper treatment, and many are afraid to seek help due to the stigma of having a mental health disorder. Sadly, this parallels to the Black community. Mental health is a "no-no" topic in the average Black household. Instead of getting counseling, most Black people are told to just "pray about it" and that mental illness is a "demonic spirit." My fellow Black people, we must get out of this mindset, because WE are struggling too.
Did you know that Blacks are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than any other race? Additionally, Blacks are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than Whites overall. Lastly, 70% of Black teenagers with depression did not receive treatment.
Let's Talk About Suicide...
Black men aged 20-24 have the highest suicide rates among the Black population. Suicide is also the 3rd leading cause of death for Black males aged 15-24. These statistics are freighting, but how can we go about changing it?
Here's what YOU Can Do:
Educate Yourself on Mental Health- attend a free mental health training, or take a class on it. Any little bit helps. The main reason that people are ignorant to mental health diagnoses is because they do not know anything about them. When you are educated, you will be better able to understand.
Don't Stigmatize Mental Illness- PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP DOING THIS! People of color tend to make mental health a taboo topic, but we are clearly suffering with it as well. Black people are quick to talk about diabetes and high blood pressure like its normal, so why can't we talk about mental health more?
Stop with the Passive-Aggressive Advice- Do not tell someone with a mental illness that "its just a phase" or to "pray about it." This is NOT what people want to hear, and quite frankly, it is not helpful at all. When individuals are suffering with their mental health, they simply want support and someone to listen to them, not to be criticized.
Give Alternatives- When someone is venting to you about their struggles, try presenting them with other options, which will empower them to make better decisions. This is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It aims to change an individual's thinking to promote more positive thoughts. So instead of telling someone to pray about it, tell them to think of things in a different way.
Be Sure to Give Referrals and Be a Support System- People with mental illnesses often feel like they are alone, but they are not. Forty-four million people suffer with mental illnesses, so they are NOT alone. These individuals just need a shoulder to lean on and they want to feel supported. Additionally, referring a person to a therapist or social service agency is beneficial so they can get the help they need and possibly for little to no cost.
Mental health is often stigmatized in minority communities, yet we are the ones suffering the most. When we start educating ourselves on mental health and start advocating for those in need; we will all come together and fight this battle.