Black Mental Health Matters
Black Mental Health Matters
by Nakikia Walton, KFN Contributor
The mother of a 24 year-old Black male Veteran stopped by my desk one morning looking for him. She wanted to make sure he was able to find the office where he was supposed to have his mental health appointment. I verified the location of the Veteran for her and advised he'd indeed made it to the correct location and was currently with his provider. The mother replied, with a sigh of relief, "Good! My baby is suffering from PTSD. He's been closed up in his room not wanting to be around anyone. He wasn't going to tell me about what was going on with him. I had to make him come to his appointment because he's got me so worried about him."
I let her know he was in good hands now. Hopefully, he'll be able to work through his symptoms of PTSD with the provider and leave here feeling brand new. I advised her she did a good thing for him because Black Mental Health Matters. Later, as she walked out the clinic the mother asked, "Will you please pray for him?" I agreed and I began to think about other people in the Black community who ask for Prayer, but go without treatment for mental health.
Let me discuss some facts regarding the mental state of the Black community. We only make up 12% of the national population, but we account for 25% of the mental health needs in the United States. What's unfortunate is this number is probably much higher. The negative attitudes and perceptions regarding mental health in the Black community play a huge role in why many of us never receive the treatment we need. We rely heavily on our Church organizations to help us get through our issues, rather than seeking professional help. We are quick to say, "I'll just pray about it" or "I don't want anyone in my business."
It's amazing how we see things eyes wide shut. We don't mind telling people, "Oh I'm diabetic" or "I have heart disease" but when it comes to Mental health issues, we continue to sweep it under the carpet. No one chooses to be stricken with any chronic illness, so it would make sense to understand no one would choose to have a mental illness either right? It is important to be educated about what mental illness is and start having discussions in the Black community surrounding possible signs and symptoms that may be affecting us.
Listen, Black folks are no different when it comes to the prevalence of mental illness, HOWEVER, our concerns, experiences and how we perceive things may be. We all experience ups and downs as a result of certain situations in our lives, but we have to understand mental health conditions go far beyond ups and downs or emotional reactions. Mental illness is a medical condition that needs to be addressed. If not treated, there’s is a very high possibility of them worsening over time. Anybody can develop or experience a mental health condition, but more severe forms of these symptoms are experienced by people of color due to social and economic barriers and macro-aggressions. We are more commonly diagnosed with Major Depression, ADHD, Suicide (among young Black men) and PSTD because we are more likely to be victims of violence, discrimination, racism and poverty than any other group of people.
Here's the thing, I know many of us are reluctant to discuss mental health issues we experience nor will we seek treatment, but this has to stop. We have to do better with addressing and treating mental illness in our community. It is said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." (Hosea 4:6). It is dangerous to be misinformed and ignorant about mental illness. It is extremely important that we approach providing education to our communities on multiple levels. We have to work diligently to put a stop to the stigma affecting the normalization of mental well-being. We also have to create environments that are safe for us to express our thoughts, feelings, and our fears about mental illness.
It is a matter of life and death these days, especially when it comes to our encounters with law enforcement. It is apparent Police officers have not been trained or equipped with how to handle people with mental illness. Unfortunately, Police behaviors often make matters worse rather than de-escalate what could be symptoms of mental health issues. Many believe that people with mental illness are violent and this is NOT TRUE, and this is part of the stigma that creates apprehension to seek treatment. And guess what, more times than not, people with mental illness who encounter law enforcement go to jail or become imprisoned.
We've got to do more when it comes to promoting Mental Health Awareness and Education in the Black community. K.I.M. (Keep It Moving) 4U, Inc. has launched its #StartSpeakingStopStigma movement to help promote Mental Health Awareness and Education in our Black communities. As a Black woman living with mental health issues, I know how important it is to seek treatment. After having a severe Panic Atack on the highway with my children in the car with me, I knew it was time to get some help. I mean I was in the middle of the freaking highway with my babies in the back seat, y'all. I knew my coping skills had been decreasing, especially the older I became. I started experiencing an increase of anxiousness after having children. Everything made me nervous and I would break out into a sweat. I've since been diagnosed with Panic Attack Disorder, Anxiety, PTSD and ADD. Good grief, I guess to ignorant people I would appear crazy, huh?
Black mental health matters! Mental health wellness is important to a good quality life. We have to change how we perceive this disease. Mental health and Wellness play a key role in how we function and navigate through society. It affects relationships, work performance and physical health. It’s no doubt undiagnosed and untreated mental illness are hazardous to anyone. Mental illness should never go undiagnosed, untreated nor unchecked at any time. Living with mental illness in a society that perpetuates crimes and facilitates racial oppression against people of color, has made it a matter of life or death; making it more important to promote awareness and education. We have to face the reality of mental illness. Understand the importance of getting diagnosed and properly treated so we can continue to live the quality of life we all deserve.
Help me promote Mental Health Awareness and Education by supporting #StartSpeakingStopStigma movement in your Communities. If you would like to support this campaign, please contact me via email at StartSpeakingStopStigma@gmail.com. You can text or call (919)964-0546. Find us also on FACEBOOK under the group name #StartSpeakingStopStigma. You can also visit the organization’s website at www.KIM4U.org.
Until next time... No matter what, KEEP IT MOVING!