Its no secret that mental illness in the black and brown community is kind of a no no. Perhaps in the progressive millennial households, the stigma on mental illness is a little less present. But for the most part, our parents and grandparents relied on spiritual wellness and a cultural history of inner strength. Growing up, my parents certainly didn't talk about mental health with my sister and I. My dad was a former marine, and my mom was working her way up in "Corporate America". (We never saw them have a bad day, and we were not about to be the weak links.)
Don't get me wrong...there were definitely people in my family struggling with mental illness, but their conditions weren't really mentioned. It was just something THEY were going through that my sister and I had no reason to worry about. I really started to believe that it was something only my white friends had the luxury of being open about. But it wasn't until mental illness became hard to ignore in immediate family members, and my own interest in healthcare, that the dialog in my household began.
And I'll admit, as a product of my upbringing I had major stigma and ignorance toward mental illness that I didn't even recognize until I took a class on mental health advocacy at Boston University.
I quickly realized that despite race, the simple fact is that, mental health is one of the most important aspects of holistic health. It affects your mental and physical well-being. Its crazy how quickly your body follows your brain. And sometimes it takes more than getting right with God, Allah, of whoever, to get right in your head.
Mental health services are underfunded and under represented in the U.S., but especially in minority communities. In fact, I spent the semester writing a whole paper on the lack of minorities working in mental health!
In some of my research I found a quote from a black man that read...
"In the midst of a depressive episode, I had a friend say to me: We are the descendants of those who survived the Middle Passage and slavery. Whatever you're going through cannot be that bad."
This is only a glimpse of the emotional barriers to treatment for mental health in minority communities.
What we really need is a commitment from the religious community, and better representation of people of color in mental health professions to combat stigma. In short... churches and religious leaders hold so much influence over communities of color and their well-being. If religious leaders could as a whole, come to appreciate the importance of mental health as much as they value spiritual health, it would help combat the notion that the only solutions are prayer or strength. Some mental illnesses are chemical imbalances in the brain that require intense therapy or medical attention or brought on by acute or chronic trauma. The longer that minority communities ignore that, the longer that we will suffer. Religious leaders in the community need to let people know that its okay not to be okay sometimes, and that there are resources outside of the church to help!
I would love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment or question below and make sure to follow me on Instagram @yourhealthcarescoop