Addressing Mental Illness within the Black Community

Trauma and mental illness have been present within the Black community for generations. Typically, the result of frustration and untreated illness gets attention, instead of proper treatment. Oftentimes, the solutions taught are to be strong, ignore, or pray on it, instead of seeking professional help. The stigma of having a disorder itself can be enough to force those affected into silence. When it comes to Black women, in particular, the pressure to always have it mentally together is prevalent. “Strong Black woman” is often used to describe us and many wear it as a badge of honor. 

Melanin Queen Creative recognizes the importance of addressing mental health within the Black community. National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 2008 by author, Bebe More Campbell who championed the creation to shed light on the mental health needs of minority communities. 

COVID-19 and Mental Illness

Mental illness has intensified since the pandemic. According to the CDC’s Household Pulse Surveys between August and December of 2020, African Americans reported more symptoms of anxiety or depression compared to whites. Stress increased due to isolation, unemployment, or adjusting to a new life routine; on top of the constant trauma of racism. Mental illness within the Black community has been pushed into mainstream media with the deaths of Miss USA Cheslie Kryst, Regina King’s son Ian Alexander, Jr., and Master P’s daughter Tytyana Miller, to name a few. It is saddening to know they were all 30 and under. Black Americans between the age of 25-34 years the highest rate of suicide, says psychologist Rheeda Walker. She believes one way to curve the trend is to continue bringing these conversations into public forums.

“Suicide is a preventable public health problem and it’s time we get proactive in addressing it.” - Rheeda Walker 

Breaking mental stigma/misconceptions in the minority community 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has listed ways we can break the stigma around mental illness:

  • Talk Openly About Mental Health
  • Educate Yourself And Others
  • Be Conscious Of Language
  • Encourage Equality Between Physical And Mental Illness
  • Show Compassion For Those With Mental Illness
  • Choose Empowerment Over Shame
  • Be Honest About Treatment
  • Let The Media Know When They’re Being Stigmatizing
  • Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma

Together we can normalize seeking help. The strains of trauma and the cycle of mental illness left untreated can end here. It is no longer a disease of shame.

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