For as long as I can remember there’s been this attitude in the black community towards mental health that’s been….how can I say this, pretty dismissive. We’re getting better but it’s still there. We’ve all heard the usual, “That’s a white problem”, “You’re just being dramatic”, “Get over it”. But the question is, why?
My personal observation: We’re used to putting on a brave face. Any little thing that could portray us as weak, we push it aside and act like it’s not happening. Whether that be for outer appearances or because we typically don’t have the means or materials to deal with it.
Let’s be honest, healthcare is not something that’s easy to come by when you’re in a position of financial disadvantage. Especially as it pertains to mental help. Therapy costs big bucks and most mental conditions require constant care and medication. For many of us in the black community, we simply don’t have access to that kind of help. It’s hard enough for many of us to pay our bills and keep a household running. Not because we’re lazy and don’t want to, but because the systematic oppression we’ve faced for many years has left us at an economic disadvantage. It’s harder for black people to get a decent education, it’s harder for black people to get good jobs because of our less than stellar education that we’re given, and even when we acquire a good education and jump through all the necessary hoops we can still have the door slammed in our faces. So for a lot of us, we simply can’t pay to have our mental health examined and taken care of.
There’s also a social stigma in the black community when it comes to mental health. We’re always being taught to be the toughest and the strongest no matter what. Give no one a reason to call you weak or say that you can’t handle life. If you have, say anxiety and you go to your parents to explain to them that you can’t seem to do anything and you feel like you can’t handle anything, they’ll most likely tell you to get over it and carry on with life. Not because they don’t care but because they know how it’ll be perceived. If we’re struggling then there’s another chance to say that black people are lazy and that we don’t like to work. So we have to work ten times or even one hundred times harder than anyone else just to get half the respect they do. But if you’re crushed under the weight of anxiety, or depression, or Bipolar disorder then you’ll be seen as lazy or weak and no one wants that for their children. So they tell them to put on a brave face and be the strongest person in the room, even when you feel like you’re at your weakest.
It’s important that we start realizing that it’s not a weakness to admit when you need help. In fact that’s one of the strongest things a person can do. Admit when they need a hand or a shoulder to lean on. There’s absolutely no shame in that. We’re also at a point in time when we can do some introspective work in addition to making the rest of the world understand us. We can’t make the world understand if we don’t understand ourselves.
If you or someone you know is in need of mental health assistance please consult with a mental health professional or seek out a hospital as soon as possible. It’s never too late to seek help.
Speaking as someone who suffers from stress induced anxiety (sometimes leading to panic attacks) the site calm.com has helped me alot as well as the phone app.
There’s also The National Suicide Prevention Hotline that you can call day or night if you need someone to speak to. The number to call is 1-800-273-8255.
There’s also commongroundhelps.org that offers many avenues of help from call and text (1-800-231-1127) to an online chat as well.
Written by Lyric Ailove