Mental Health is something that affects every person. Nevertheless, there are things we can do as individuals and communities to open up the door to more discussions on mental health. Studies show that 1 out of 4 adults is diagnosed with a mental illness per year. More celebrities such as Demi Lovato and Lady Gaga have spoken out about their mental health struggles. However, when it comes the conversation of mental health specifically in the black community, there seems to be an invisible wall of silence. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that due to the repeated exposure to violence and economic turmoil, blacks are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness than any other race. However, blacks are also the least likely to talk about mental Health. There has become an issue of disparity among the black community and the topic of wellness. Nevertheless, in sitting down with Dr. Roy Reese Professor of Community Health and Preventative Medicine at Morehouse University, he shared some insight on how to get the black community engaged in the mental health conversation.
In the black community, mental health has carried a negative stigma for decades. From keeping family secrets of molestation and rape to not getting help for “crazy” Uncle Jim, Black families have not always been open to talking about our mental. However, as times are changing and the stigma of mental health is beginning to fall off, black families are now in search for resources to get their families and communities the support they need. So one of the questions and comments many are asking now is “am I crazy or weak for wanting to talk to a counselor” or, “how do I know if I need to talk to someone.” Dr. Reese encourages his patients and others first and foremost that seeking help for mental health is NOT, I repeat not a sign of weakness but more so a sign of strength. Admitting that you may be struggling with depression or anxiety shows positive mental behavior. Dr. Reese quotes that Positive Behavior equals Positive Health. Your mental health can have a direct correlation to your physical health. Dr. Reese who also specializes in adolescent behavioral health encourages black families not to wait until the extreme happens. Seek support now. Do not ignore the signs! Many who are diagnosed with mental health illness, only a small percent are diagnosed with more serious mental illness such as Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder.
If you have some concerns, express them and talk to your doctor. Many health care providers have resources readily available to patients who are looking for mental support. Not only are resources available but check your city to see what resources are available especially to black families. Dr. Reese also stresses the importance of black families seeking treatment from mental health professionals who look and can relate to our experiences.
Behavioral health specialist and are striving to bridge the gap between mental health and primary care physicians. Nevertheless, we have to keep the lines of communication open. The more we open up Mental Health, the easier it becomes to talk about it. Making Mental Health a priority is a must! Remember as Doctor Reese say “Positive Mental Health = Positive Physical Health. Don’t only take care of your body this time around, but take care of your mind too!
For more additional information on resources available in your area, you can click the links below or contact your provider network to find more resources available to you.
Stay informed and get educated:
National Association of Black Social Workers- http://nabsw.org/
The Association of Black Psychologist – http://www.abpsi.org/find-psychologists/
Akoma Counseling and Consulting- http://www.akomacounseling.com/
Words by Rasheera Dopson.