Therapy Thursday: Mental Health a Taboo to the African American Culture

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We now live in an era where we can see what’s going on in most parts of the world by pulling out a cell phone. It seems like every day there’s a new breaking story from a different part of the world that just shatters our hearts and toys with our spirits. It would be reasonable to say that what we see on TV, social media, and other platforms, definitely has an effect on our moods, but we fail to realize how it affects our mental health. As African Americans, we are becoming more aware of these issues, yet it still feels like taboo to discuss them due to stigmas, lack of knowledge on mental health, and simply not enough African Americans speaking out about the matter.

Me being African American and growing up with depression and anxiety, I found it hard to talk to anyone about what I was going through because there was this stigma that African Americans don’t have mental health issues. Well I’m sorry to burst anyone’s bubble (really not sorry 😆), but at the end of the day, African Americans are still HUMAN. If it’s one group of people who should be acknowledging mental health, it should be African Americans. Growing up in my era (90s & 00s), when you would mention mental health within the African American culture, you would hear things like, “It’s just a phase. Brush it off. Black people don’t have those problems. You’re weird. Only white folks have those issues.” God forbid you mention counseling 🙄, that was an extreme NO-NO. Unfortunately, this stigma still persist through the African American community.

The lack of acknowledgment of mental health within the African American community is sad to see, especially when we as a people have been through so much. Slavery, homelessness, and brutality in many forms. Dealing with all these issues over the centuries (and still dealing with a lot of these same issues today), it would be justifiable to say that African Americans are triggered in many ways that affect their mental health.  According to the ADAA [Anxiety & Depression Association of America], African Americans are 20% more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population“. African Americans are at greater risk for developing conditions such as depression, anxiety, ptsd [post-traumatic stress disorder], bi-polar, and other mental health problems due to being exposed to harsher conditions at a higher rate. According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development 2018 AHAR [Annual Homeless Assessment Report], 39.8% of African American’s were homeless. According to the Treatment Advocate Center, there was a conservative estimate of 25% of homeless people suffering from mental health back in 2017.

2019-05-02 (2)African Americans are exposed to circumstances such as these at a higher rate, which correlates to their mental health being affected. A lot of African Americans aren’t informed about mental health, which is one of the reasons why mental health is still a taboo matter within the culture. Lack of knowledge of these issues will bring lack of results or solutions on how to combat mental health within the African American culture.

We as African Americans need to be more vocal about mental health and not dust the topic under a rug. We cannot combat mental health issues if we don’t talk about them. By we, I mean the AFRICAN DIASPORA. Don’t get me wrong, you can have someone from a more Eurocentric culture discuss mental health, but it’s not going to stick to our people until we start seeing more of our people discussing the matter. Think about it…
How can an 8-year-old African American girl relate to a 30-year-old Caucasian woman talking about mental health? Yes, they both may suffer from mental health, but a black girl would relate more to a black woman talking on these matters because she’ll have an example of what she can become when she gets older dealing with mental health.
With all the trauma African Americans have experienced in the past and all the current trauma we are facing now within society (racism, discrimination, police brutality, etc.), it’s time to bring about more discussions on mental health so, we can start coming up with solutions on how to combat mental health.

In future post, I will be discussing different issues regarding mental health, certain experiences I’ve dealt with firsthand, and also situations I had to deal with regarding to others with mental health issues. I’ll also be discussing certain things that can trigger certain mental health disorders and ways to help relieve the stress of mental health. STAY TUNED ✌🏾!