By the title of this post, you will see that I want to discuss a topic that is particularly taboo and a widely spread concern across the African American community.
I believe at a time when there are several things happening that can have a severe impact on our mental health, we need to arm ourselves with more information now than ever.
This year we have been hit harder with more news and traumatic situations than ever. From a national pandemic, racial injustices, political issues, it’s an election year, being essential in a crucial time of crisis, and whatever else may come our way; emotions are running high and spirits are low. Some of us are barely holding on to our sanity, but are finding ways to continue to keep going despite what the world throws at us on a day-to-day basis. I know that the entire world is suffering, but African Americans suffer at the hands of more systemic racism than any other race, and I believe that the mental health crisis is one of them.
In the past year, of the 13.4% of the African American population, 16% identified as having a mental illness.
While this number represents about 7 million people, there are still far more people of color who have a mental illness who have not identified it. There has been and will always be a stigma towards mental health, and there are so many subsections of stigma to address even under that umbrella. There’s several people (African Americans mainly) who use the terms “nothing”, “I’m fine” or “it’s ok” to hide behind their true feelings. I know, because I’m one of those people. Between the exposure to physical violence, policy brutality, harassment, discrimination, unfair workplace treatment, etc. and the notion to “swallow our anger” and be required to muster up enough energy despite our feelings to have to endure some of the things that we experience on a daily basis; it is very difficult to find the ability to sit down and be vulnerable enough to tell someone that we are not OK.
2020 has definitely started out as a year of uncertainty and chaos, with the pandemic numbers growing day by day, and with racial tension mounting by the day, its common to wonder “when will life ever be normal again?”
What’s stopping us from getting help?
The million-dollar question is: why does the Black community refuse to address their mental health issues? Is it generational epidemic? Is it based on negative perception? Or is it the failure to acknowledge that we have a “weakness?” All too often, the idea of “admitting we are weak makes us weak” becomes an excuse for not taking care of ourselves mentally. We continue to try and perservere, when we really should be taking the time out to take care of our mental stability. Instead, we fight through it, because that’s what strong people do, right? We fight through the pain. We fight through because that is supposed to be the true indicator of your strength and worth.
What is it that truly hinders our communities ability to admit and seek treatment when needed? If you want my opinion, I’m going with the reason being all of these plus so much more. There’s always so much speculation around mental health and how it’s minimized compared to physical health; however, if you really thought about it, you would find that without your mental health being stable everything else can go downhill from there.
How to find the help you need…
Now is the time to accept all the help that we can be offered. We deserve to be able to properly address the traumas and the experiences that we deal with on a daily basis. Even for those of us who have not directly experienced things; the exposure alone can cause some levels of psychological trauma and alter our moods to the degree that it can get in the way of our daily activities and even performance at work and at home with our own families.
There are many ways to seek out and find the resources needed to seek affordable and meaningful treatment.
Online therapy apps. With the development of apps such as Talkspace, the means and ability to get therapy is now being convenient with the way the world turns today. With so much being solely reliant on technology, Talkspace gives you the opportunity to search and connect with a therapist from your phone, tablet or computer. You can opt for text only or even send video and audio to your therapist, depending on the type of plan. This is a great option for someone who may want to begin therapy, but still slightly hesitant on actually speaking with someone face to face.
Sliding scale payment options. Most therapists are able to provide a sliding scale option for payment, so that therapy is a little easier to afford and manageable. Price is typically one of the top options as to why women do not seek therapy; however, there are ways to make it fit into your budget.
Low-income therapy clinics. Some areas also have clinics that assist with low-income individuals who need mental health services. In order to find one in your area, you will need to search on the NAMI website for locations that offer these services.
If we are unable to do anything else for ourselves, self-care should be priority number one. Our physical, mental and emotional health should be some of the top tier items on the list of self-preservation during these times, because if we are unable to maintain a healthy mind body and spirit, we will not be able maintain our home and family lives.
I will continue to pray for the world we live in and pray that we are all continuing to take care of ourselves first and our loved ones as well.