Mental Health and the Black Community

The topic of mental health as it pertains to Black people is one that is rarely discussed. I needed to conduct some research prior to writing this to further educate myself on the matter. Over the years, I have had family and friends suffering from a mental illness that they weren’t aware of. It wasn’t always discussed openly amongst family. After perusing multiple articles, my eyes were opened to a bevy of information.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Service, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic Whites. Life-altering events like the death of a loved one, illness; and “psycho-social” issues such as unemployment, crime in our communities, and racism just to name a few, contribute to psychological distress. With everything going on in our world today, just imagine how many of us are suffering mentally. A lot of us are suffering in silence because of how we were raised. In some cases, we don’t feel comfortable disclosing how we’re feeling because we don’t want to hear “just pray about it” or “you just need to man up”.

Everyday we’re losing people due to suicide because they don’t know what else to do. By not investing in our mental health and the mental health of those closest to us, we do ourselves a great disservice.  The topic of mental health in regards to Black people is so taboo and the stigma is damaging.

A piece in Ebony magazineA piece in Ebony magazine featured Simone Sneed, Director of Development and External Affairs for Inwood House. Sneed has also suffered from bipolar disorder. She considers herself “episode free, med-free and hospital free for over three years”. In the piece she credited her mother with investing in her mental health. What stood out to me was what she said about why the Black community approaches mental health the way we do:

“Historically, African Americans have normalized our own suffering. During slavery, mental illness often resulted in a more inhumane lifestyle including frequent beatings and abuse, which forced many slaves to hide their issues. Over time, strength became equated with survival and weakness (including mental illness) meant you might not survive.”

I have heard this before and it still makes me shiver when I think about it. What our ancestors endured all of those years ago has evolved into a self-harming way of thinking. As a strong and resilient people, we have to learn how to lean on each other more. Having a mental illness is not a weakness. If you or someone you know feels like they need to seek professional help, don’t take it lightly or be embarrassed. This is not a “White person’s disease”, it affects us all.  We are entitled to our feelings, good and bad. No one’s feelings are invalid. We must address this issue head on and end the stigma of mental illness.

Back To School Encouragement

I remember my first days of school like yesterday. The most vivid is the year I went to sixth grade. Everything had to be prefect; my haircut had to be fresh, my school uniform needed to be clean and crispy, I was so serious, I even needed my school supplies to be top notch. Although none of this kept me from being bullied for the gaps in my teeth and not having facial hair, I still managed to be one of the coolest kids in school.

Sixth grade was a turning point for me socially. Here I was, this eleven year old kid who didn’t feel like a kid anymore. This was my first step into adulthood (or so I thought.) I remember feeling like one of the “big kids”. I wasn’t in elementary school anymore. Middle school was a Rite of Passage for kids at my school. Most of us had been there since Pre-K. Since I was a third grade import, I was always a target for bullying. By sixth grade, I had made my mark. No more bullying, no more confusion as to what my place was in the grade school food chain, I had finally made it.

My only trouble was, I was so busy keeping up with my peers that I failed to keep up with my studies. I was an extremely smart kid. I had some trouble in math but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. When I was in 1st grade I was reading at an eighth grade level. But being a smart kid didn’t make me cool.

Everyone else was goofing off so, of course, I went along with it. I skipped class and tormented substitute teachers, pulled girls by their ponytails and bullied the weaker species of children. I was a riot. My friends loved it, my teachers hated it, and my mom was stressed out. It wasn’t until I was a junior in high school that I started taking my education seriously (that lasted until sophomore year of college, but that’s another story for another time.)

There are a lot of children going back to school today and I’m sharing this story to let them know that it’s okay to be smart. Don’t be ashamed of your desire to learn. Let the talents and skill that you possess grow without hindrance. Think of yourself as a seed. The more water you consume, the more you’ll flourish. Allow yourself to grow and don’t let the other seeds in the garden block your sunlight. That incredible genius inside of you is ready to thrive. The athlete that you want to be is restless and ready to get out there and impress everyone.

There will be some distractions but the more you focus on the positive things, the better off you will be in the future. The same people who bullied me for being a “dork” are the same people who want to work with me now because I’m great at what I do. I didn’t make all of the right decisions to get here, but I made it. You can do the same, but you have people like me who learned the hard way so you don’t have to. Be smart, be fearless, and always be amazing; because that’s exactly what you are.

Single Parents & Children of the Opposite Sex

Today while scrolling through Facebook, I read a status from a friend giving a shout out to all of the men being good fathers. He began his status by saying that he appreciates being called a “good father”, but doesn’t recognize it as an achievement because it is expected of him. I felt it was very commendable for him to recognize that and pat other young fathers on the back for the same.

image

As I’m reading the many comments, I came across one from a young lady who replied,

“What about the mommies who have to be daddie too?”

Aside from the awful spelling I was annoyed that she took away from the moment shared between these young men to voice the plight of the single mother. Ma’am if you are reading this, I would like for you to understand something. You being “daddie” is impossible.

For a while, my mother raised my three brothers and I with the help of an incredible support system. It could not have been easy. I have the best mother in the world, but she couldn’t teach me how to be a man, like only a man could. In my opinion, there is no way a mother can take the place of the father, and vice-versa. If you’re raising a child of the opposite sex, I’m sure there are challenges that are met.

image

I’d love some feedback here. I’m not a parent and I do not intend to offend anyone. My positive energy and love goes out to all of the incredible single parents and parents in general out there raising our future.

As a single parent, what kind of issues do you face raising a child of the opposite sex?

image