We Need Help And It’s Okay

Life is hard but I cannot break my spirit. I was a child who gave away their lunch with someone else was hungry. Gave my brother the blanket while I shivered in the cold. Wiped away my mom’s tears and swallow back my own. Sacrifice my back for a beatingin to save my sisters. This is who I am…Who I was… Until… Until the betrayal. Until the hurt. Until the danger. Until the pain. Until the world changed. Now my memories are scattered… They are broken; like pieces of a glass bottle in the street. I do not know who I am anymore. My mind races. Thoughts jumbled together. I’ll look in the mirror and they tell me that there’s a word for all of this. They call it trauma

(Corrado, 2016)

One out of five adults in the United States experience a mental illness in a given year. But let’s delve into that a little bit further. See, African-Americans, we make up 12% of the population, but out of that 12%, 18. 7 of us are affected by a mental illness. We are 20% more likely to report a serious distress over our white counterparts (Ward, Earlise C., et al, 2013), but yet we are less likely to receive or seek out treatment; but why?

Is it because of our perseverance? Resiliency? I mean we did overcome slavery, the historical traumas of Jim Crowe and Indentured servitude. Not to mention the micro-aggressions that we face on a daily basis, and plus our own individual traumas (Andrasik, n.d.). Mental Health America (MHA) reports BlackAmericans are more likely to be victims of serious, violent crimes than non-Hispanic whites, which makes them more likely to meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So once again, I’m asking why don’t we seek help?

Maybe it’s the barriers that we face just with finding mental health services. You know, the poor access to care. The low availability of care. The lack of representation. African Americans only make up four percent of all psychologists in the US workforce (Lin, Stamm, & Christidis, 2018).

Personally, I think it has a lot to do with the stigma.

You know, the stigma that a lot of African-Americans have about mental health, especially in our community.

So there’s this study that examined African Americans and their beliefs about mental illness, their attitudes toward seeking mental health services, preferred coping behaviors, and whether or not these differed by gender and age (Ward et al., 2013). What they discovered were a few things:

  1. Those who participated weren’t too open to acknowledging psychological issues
  2. Older adults found to look at depression and other mental health illnesses as a weakness
  3. A lot of African Americans used religion to deal with their mental illnesses and majority were very concerned about the stigma associated with it

But is that really a surprise?

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard, “just pray about it,” or “put your big girl panties on” or even, “Black people don’t go to therapy.”

It’s just not enough and we have to do something about it.

We need more black psychologists. We need more accessibility to mental health services.

But first and most importantly, we need to break the stigma. We have to bridge the hurt we face as a community and demonstrate why it is so important to seek help when we need it.

I’m here today because a team of amazing people and myself are here to simply mend that bridge. We understand the importance of mental health, and we want to do something about it in our community. We created Decoded, a non-profit organization aimed to tackle the stigma behind mental health in the Black community. We provide informative and interactive events that help shape the views about mental health in a more positive light.


So today, we challenge you to help us mend the bridge, break the barriers and help eliminate the stigma of mental health in the African-American community.

References

Corrado, Meagan, “Trauma Narratives with Inner City Youth: The Storiez Intervention” (2016).

Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) Dissertations. 77.

Lin, L., Stamm, K., & Christidis, P. (2018). How diverse is the psychology workforce? Retrieved

from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/02/datapoint

National Council For Behavioral Health . (2019). Stigma Regarding Mental Illness among

People of Color. Retrieved from https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/BH365/2019 /07/08/stigma-regarding-mental-illness-among-people-of-color/

Perry, C. (2013). Mental Health and the Current Times: Racial Trauma. Retrieved from

https://www.counseling.org/news/aca-blogs/aca-member-blogs/aca-member-blogs/2017/12/12/mental-health-and-the-current-times-racial-trauma

Ward, E. C., Wiltshire, J. C., Detry, M. A., & Brown, R. L. (2013). African American Men and

Women’s Attitude Toward Mental Illness, Perceptions of Stigma, and Preferred Coping Behaviors. Nursing Research, 62(3), 185–194. doi: 10.1097/nnr.0b013e31827bf533

Other informational links:

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/July-2018/Challenging-Mental-Health-Stigma-in-the-Black-Comm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4279858/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27269014

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/July-2019/How-to-Overcome-Stigma-in-the-African-American-Com

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