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Mental Health in a Black Home

Mental health is something that we’ve acknowledged as a serious topic in contemporary society. There’s been research about it; papers have been written, proof has been shown, but for some reason it is still very much a taboo subject in black homes. Making the slightest comment about worrying about one’s mental health is seemingly always met with glaring looks and a reply along the lines of “Be quiet; don’t say that, we don’t claim it, in Jesus’ name.”

Talking about something like mental health is quite the task in black homes. Many black homes in the UK have people like me as the first generation to have an entire education in a European country, let alone the UK, which I will always be grateful for. However, this poses the problem of younger people being able to learn that they may suffer from mental illnesses, and the feeling of hate and sadness; the feeling of not wanting to live that they constantly battle against is not just a mere bad mood or mood swing. It’s not something so visible. Apart from the challenge of battling against your own emotions, you have another problem; how do you even begin to speak to anyone about your problem?

How do you explain to your parents without them assuming you’re just copying your friends?

How do you tell them that it’s not just something that will ‘go away’ tomorrow?

How do you get them to understand that you need real therapy without them denying you, saying that you’ll end up in a ‘mental home’?

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Personally, I know that I do have some personal issues that I can’t really speak about. I’m sure that there are other people who feel the same way. Despite the fact that I keep telling myself that I can sort out my issues, I should probably take steps to speak out to someone who can help me; denying my own feelings is something I’ve done too frequently and that shouldn’t be the case.

According to www.mentalhealth.org.uk,

“In general, people from black and minority ethnic groups living in the UK are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems, more likely to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital, more likely to experience a poor outcome from treatment, and more likely to disengage from mainstream mental health services, leading to social exclusion and a deterioration in their mental health.” But why does this happen?

It’s hard to have an ultimate standpoint on the situation; I do understand that our parents have grown up in (most likely) a highly religious community, where things like mental health are looked down upon as things that can fixed by prayer, holy water and denying the ‘curse’ or ‘demon’.  This can work for a few people to some degree; I won’t deny that at all, but there is definitely a number of people who that will not be enough for.  It’s time that we started to make sure that the power of one’s mental state is understood. Monks have been able to protest and make sacrifices, setting themselves on fire, using the immense power of their minds to keep themselves in a calm state of peace; what makes our parents think that our minds don’t have the power to reason and succumb to overwhelming feeling?

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I’m only 17; I’m a mere student and I don’t have as much knowledge as professionals. I can’t offer professional advice or the solution to everything in terms of how you feel internally. But I can support you, and I can always be there to speak to you and get you the help you may need. Parents, aunties, uncles, caretakers or whoever you are; be there for your children or those who need you; Hear them out, be the light in the darkness. You may not see it but I promise you it’s worth it in the long run.

By Jennifer Ogbebor

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