Mental illness is largely still stigmatized in this society. This attitude towards mental health is even more prevalent in black communities for a whole host of reasons. There are economic, cultural and systemic reasons what mental illness runs rampant amongst black individuals. Yet, a majority of sufferers agonize in silence. They do not tell family members and they do not get specialized help.
This comes as an unsettling fact as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Services states that black people are 20% more likely to report dealing with some type of psychological distress than a white person. This is alarming as mental illness is a pervasive and prominent force in all communities, whether openly discussed or otherwise. But there are some key factors to contemplate when deconstructing the emotional velocity of blackness and cultural norms.
One of the reasons that mental illness is such a convoluted issue in black communities is the deep religious fabric that runs throughout. Many elders and even younger contemporaries believe that prayer is all the help those who are struggling with psychological impairments could need. While for believers, prayer, community and fellowship can be tremendous components toward their mindfulness and positive outlook, it isn’t necessarily comprehensive in the medical treatment sense. Just as a doctor treats physical ailments, mental ones deserve that type of acute dissection and appropriate solution.
Another key thing to consider is that the rates of joblessness and poverty are higher in communities of color and black individuals are disproportionately represented in such communities. Feeling a sense of hopelessness or lack of direction due to circumstances can be one of the predominant causes and triggers for mental health struggles. Anxiety and depression are directly linked to feelings of uncertainty, lack, and invisibility.
From a societal standpoint, it’s also incredibly troublesome to feel unsafe as a black human being in our current reality. As it seems that every other week someone is being attacked, verbally ridiculed or even killed for reasons that stem from the perceived negativity that follows blackness. The state of our justice system, increased instances of police brutality, and political folly have left many feeling psychologically harmed and unsafe. The constant feeling of being devalued and not seen as a fully realized human being can be tremendously damaging to the psyche and can cause mental strain and unrest, thus leading to a decline in mental health.
For the sake of us and our communities, let’s be open about mental illness and suffer in silence no more. Let’s encourage each other to seek out help we need and take the stigma out of mental illness. Mental health should be given as much priority as physical health.