Updated: Oct 9, 2022
Where do we begin in trying to understand the mental injury of the Negro? African Americans are a lineage beget from thievery, hatred, greed and trickery. One should never minimize the power of the brain, specifically its ability to create physical and mental manifestations of mental duress, even while in the womb. How many generations of Negroes developed in a womb while receiving the vibes and energy of a somber, scared and sometimes angry black slave? What about the Negroes born to a mother who was raped and had been continuously? Negroes lived a daily life, hour to hour, of constant fear, condemnation and uncertainty. What effects have these emotions had on the brains of African Americans?
Black History Month is an anamnesis of our heritage to recall the timeline and plight of the Negro. This timeline is one filled with trauma and simultaneously one that has created strengths, bonds and dynamism that some races will never achieve. Names like Osborne Perry Anderson, author of, Voice from Harper’s Ferry, Harriet Tubman, Octavious Catto, Thomas Bowers, Martin Luther King Jr, James Madison Bell, Robert Bogle, Benjamin A. Boseman, William Hooper Councill and many more created a standard of creatively enduring the difficulties, while devising a plan to overcome.
Psychological traumas were produced by brutal kidnappings, centuries of enslavement, the fight for freedom which alone included several agonizing steps such as the Emancipation Proclamation, establishing the 13th Amendment, multiple Civil Rights Acts, 14th and 15th Amendments and Jim Crow laws. Watching loved ones receive beatings, undergo violent amputations, and be sexually assaulted also created mental anguish for those made to observe. In addition to these insults, Negroes were illiterate until the 1900’s, rendering them unqualified to perform a host of occupations and thus impoverished. Segregation, riots, the mass killings of African Americans, the lynching of innocent brown faces and the overuse of force by law enforcement all created a climate of paranoia, angst, somber moods and in general, emotional turmoil.
These emotions have been shared from one generation to the next either via witnessing events or hearing about these stories.
Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and the inability to manage anger are the results of this timeline. In addition, the inability to love or seek love in a healthy manner was created by the insecurity amongst family units during slavery. For many decades, African Americans could not safely love or be loved. Rape was a common occurrence for men and women. The humiliation felt from one decade to the next has made us guarded and leery of others. Also, negative treatment has resulted in a mistrust of authorities.
Slavery and racism have created socioeconomic disparities which are associated with poor health, including mental. Adult blacks are more likely to experience psychological distress than adult whites. Based on statistics, adult blacks are more likely to experience symptoms of hopelessness, somber moods, and worthlessness. During a national survey on clinical depression, an overwhelming number of African Americans indicated that depression is a personal weakness and perceived to be a “normal” variant of life. African Americans are not as likely as other races to seek medication treatment or other treatment for mental health.
Every person deserves to feel a sense of contentment during most days. Low or somber moods are just one indication of a possible mental health problem. Psychological stress or mental health symptoms are not a sign of weakness. We should share information with our children, siblings, parents to educate them on the signs of a possible mental health problem, AND we should encourage them to receive and participate in treatment. Not having access to health care and being forced to find comfort amongst our families and the church was a way of life for several decades but no longer. We should empower ourselves with information, access care and not suffer in silence.