Depression In Black Communities: An Unspoken Problem
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Depression or any other mental illnesses are unspoken topics in the African-American community. There a many articles on the Internet that discuss the disparity between African-Americans and other ethnicities, but there are not enough articles that discuss the real reasons behind why depression is a secret in our community. As a minority, I grew up around older people who stated that "Black people don’t get depressed". That’s a white thing. But this is not true. For generations, African-Americans have been considered a “strong race of people”, but researchers and psychologists go back and forth stating that African-Americans are less likely to seek help because the negative stigma of depression in the community.
Suck It Up - Just Pray Harder
Ever since I was a child, I was told to suck it up and pray. But history is a great teacher. From slavery to the present, we have always been told to that to be strong we needed to pray and simply "stay strong" during times of adversity. However, unchecked emotions can lead to disastrous relationships and bad health. The one thing that irritates me the most is that researchers and psychologist love to explain the negatives about the African-American community but fail to find a solution. Maybe I am on my soap box, but mental illness will remain a stigma in the African-American community until we can accept the fact that the problem exists.
Depression affects everyone, not mater their ethnicity, but researchers and psychologists don’t associate certain barriers that stop African-Americans from seeking help. The first thing you should do is talk someone you trust, but what if the person you trust isn’t to receptive to your cry for help and doesn't know how to best proceed with your situation? This is when you quickly find out who is really your friend. When I struggled through my dark times, I found myself dealing with my depressive moments alone because I constantly received useless responses. Some of the useless responses that I have encountered are “Why don’t you just suck it up”, and “You are really talking to me about this when there are people in world worse off than you.” How can we make the unspoken topic a spoken topic?
What To Do:
1. Create Other Avenues for Support. One of the most common things that that we African Americans often say is that you won’t understand our pain because you are not Black. That is one of the craziest things you can say. Mental illness affects everyone, regardless of race. If you want to recover from depression and don’t have health insurance, search for places that offer free counseling, such as community support groups.
2. Keep A Journal. You don’t necessarily have to keep a journal, but writing is a great way to express your thoughts in private when you don’t have anyone to talk to about your problems. Some people express their thoughts through poetry and through writing songs, while others express their feelings through painting or the performing arts. Find a way to express your feelings.
3. Go To Church. Religion is very important in the African-American community, especially in the South. Churches are now beginning to offer free counseling to the public and for their members. For example, my church has several ministries that focus on grief, self-development, and traumatic life experiences. Don’t shy away from this option. Many churches have at least one licensed professional within their congregation that would love to help you and talk to you. This can be the best option for you if you don’t have any health insurance.
4. Rebuild Our Community. Yes, I said it. Well, I wrote it, to be exact. It is long past time for us to start supporting one another. We can’t come together only we face discrimination. We have to stand together at all times. Yet, we spend most of our time tearing each other down. Many people are angry and dysfunctional because of our past experiences. No one choses to be a drug dealer or to be in an abusive relationships. Deep-rooted unresolved feelings can make you make bad choices. Creating a safe outlet or a safe environment can make a big difference.
5. Start Your Own Community. If you are concerned about whether or not your community will support you, join a different organization and start your own support group. This can be an event specifically for at risk youth, a literacy program, or credit counseling. This is a good way to create a safe environment in order for for people to open up and build trust. Remember, a little confidence can go a long way. But, don’t get involved in such programs just to have something to put on your resume.