National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
, and it comes in the midst of U. S. and international unrest and protests, following the murders of black men and women by police. It comes at a time when the covers are being pulled back on systematic racism and modern-day lynching’s as America struggles to reckon with centuries of slavery, oppression, racial and economic discrimination.
As our nation faces its dark history and is forced to live up to the ideals it was founded on and its creed “that all men are created equal,” I ask , where do we begin to try to understand the mental injury to the Negro? African Americans are a lineage beget from thievery, hatred, greed, and trickery.
Lasting psychological trauma and mental anguish spans generations that have endured or been made to observe brutal beating, kidnappings, murders, poverty, educational, housing, and economic disparities, and the overuse of force by law enforcement. In nearly every state, African Americans face a significantly higher risk of being killed by the police and are nearly three times more likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.
Past and present injustices, and brutally have all created a climate of paranoia, angst, fear, and emotional turmoil that affect the brain and its power, which should never be minimized, specifically the brain’s ability to create physical and mental manifestations of mental duress, even while in the womb. For generations of Negroes, the moment of conception meant feeding off the vibes and energy of a somber, scared and often sexually abused, violently raped angry black slave. Daily life for the Negro meant constant fear, condemnation, and uncertainty. Again, I ask, what effects have these emotions had on the brains of African Americans and their offspring?
In addition to centuries of brutality and injustices, also tied to the Negros’s history are the
maladies of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and the inability to manage anger. And, the inability to love or seek love in a healthy manner was created by the insecurity amongst family units during slavery. For decades, African Americans could not safely love or be loved. The humiliation felt from one decade to the next has made us guarded and leery of others. Additionally, negative treatment has resulted in a mistrust of authorities.
Slavery and racism have created socioeconomic disparities which are associated with poor
physical and mental health. Studies show that African Americans are 20 percent more likely to have serious psychological distress than whites and suffer depressive occurrences that are more disabling, persistent, and resistant to treatment than whites.
African American adults 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 it to be a “normal” variant of life. Data also shows that African Americans are not as likely as other races to seek medication or treatment for mental health.
We must, as a race, end the stigma associated with mental illness. Every person deserves to feel a sense of contentment on 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, and 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, to deal with injustices and daily struggles impacting African Americans, has been a way of life for several decades. And while the church and family continue to be held in the highest of regard, they no longer must carry the weight of healing a mentally drained and injured race of people. We now
have the means and should empower ourselves with knowledge and seek access to mental health care if we are to begin the process of healing centuries old mental wounds and coping with modern-day injustices.
While the plight of the Negro has a timeline filled with trauma and simultaneously one that has created strengths, bonds, and dynamism achieved in the face of insurmountable odds and suffering experienced by no other race of people in the history of mankind, the mental injury and scares will take time and work to overcome. But we can, as a people, take steps toward recovery by utilizing and accessing mental healthcare services available to us today like at no other time in our history.
As we recognize Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, let us take this opportunity to lay
the groundwork for real change and seek solutions to mental illness and emotional distress that often plagues our communities. Let us start by ending decades of shame and the stigma associated with seeking mental healthcare, and encourage those who need help, to get help.