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Mental Health In The Black Community

Our ancestors for hundreds of years had to deal with so much trauma & pain in a time they didn’t know what was happening & sure couldn’t fathom the results from such experiences such as: post traumatic stress syndrome, suicide, depression, post traumatic slave syndrome, sexual abuse, anxiety, and stress all from the hands of our counterparts/oppressor. If you know anything about mental health our minds start to develop coping/self defense mechanisms to protect our psyche so just imagine going untreated for generations being passed down like an heirloom never really noticing or understanding the characteristics, fear, hurt, and ignorance that had occurred & been spreading like a dormant virus.

Mental health in the black community/culture has existed since the inception of “America'' but never spoken upon & believed it could exist in an “inferior” race/ethnicity. We would soon enough learn otherwise and It’s believed by most survivors of the ghetto/hood & professionals that a high percentage of residents that still live in urban inner cities are suffering from some form of mental illness and trauma. Whether you have a traumatic upbringing, a traumatic home/family life, a complicated school experience, or just from the environment and neighborhood we’re forced to live in & have to survive and see the beauty in all things. Our people are in denial and just struggling to shake off & break free from the stigma and all of the sayings like: “therapy is a white people thing, therapy is only for the weak, just keep it together & stay strong and god will fix it.”

Negative attitudes and beliefs towards people who live with mental health conditions is pervasive within the U.S. and can be particularly strong within the Black community. One study showed that 63% of Black people believe that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness. As a result, people may experience shame about having a mental illness and worry that they may be discriminated against due to their condition. For many in the Black community, it can be incredibly challenging to discuss the topic of mental health due to this concern about how they may be perceived by others. This fear could prevent people from seeking mental health care when they really need it. This mentality and way of thinking is counterproductive & the leading cause of untreated disorders, deaths, misdiagnosis, and still remains the reason that only 30% of black people seek help/therapy when 65% of our people have experienced traumatic events.

Not only does the inner city lack the resources needed to diagnose mental illness but we’re also lacking in the ability to treat them as well, but not knowing the signs can be catastrophic. We have to educate ourselves because ignorance is not bliss, the most commonly found disorders/illnesses in our communities are schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, multiple personality disorder, bipolar disorder, suicide, and ptsd, all of these are easily treatable disorders if diagnosed properly & treated with the proper regiment.

The symptoms of schizophrenia are:

  • Behavioral: social isolation, disorganized behavior, aggression, agitation, compulsive behavior, excitability, hostility, repetitive movements, self-harm, or lack of restraint.

  • Cognitive: thought disorder, delusion, amnesia, belief that an ordinary event has special and personal meaning, belief that thoughts aren't one's own, disorientation, mental confusion, slowness in activity, or false belief of superiority

  • Mood: anger, anxiety, apathy, feeling detached from self, general discontent, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, elevated mood, or inappropriate emotional response

  • Psychological: hallucination, paranoia, hearing voices, depression, fear, persecutory delusion, or religious delusion

  • Speech: circumstantial speech, incoherent speech, rapid and frenzied speaking, or speech disorder

  • Also common: fatigue, impaired motor coordination, lack of emotional response, or memory loss.

The Symptoms of Depression are:

  • Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness.

  • Behavioral: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, restlessness, or social isolation

  • Sleep: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep

  • Whole body: excessive hunger, fatigue, or loss of appetite

  • Cognitive: lack of concentration or slowness in activity

  • Weight: weight gain or weight loss

  • Also common: poor appetite, repeatedly going over thoughts, or thoughts of suicide.

The Symptoms of Anxiety:

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge.

  • Being easily fatigued.

  • Having difficulty concentrating.

  • Being irritable.

  • Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains.

  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry.

  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

The Symptoms of Multiple Personality Disorder:

  • Behavioral: impulsivity, self-destructive behavior, or self-harm

  • Mood: anxiety, feeling detached from self, or mood swings

  • Psychological: altered consciousness, depression, or flashback

  • Also common: amnesia or blackout

The Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:

  • Mood: mood swings, sadness, elevated mood, anger, anxiety, apathy, apprehension, euphoria, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, or loss of interest or pleasure in activities

  • Behavioral: irritability, risk taking behaviors, disorganized behavior, aggression, agitation, crying, excess desire for sex, hyperactivity, impulsivity, restlessness, or self-harm

  • Cognitive: unwanted thoughts, delusion, lack of concentration, racing thoughts, slowness in activity, or false belief of superiority

  • Psychological: depression, manic episode, agitated depression, or paranoia

  • Weight: weight gain or weight loss

  • Sleep: difficulty falling asleep or excess sleepiness

  • Also common: fatigue or rapid and frenzied speaking

The Symptoms of PTSD:

  • Behavioral: agitation, irritability, hostility, hypervigilance, self-destructive behavior, or social isolation

  • Psychological: flashback, fear, severe anxiety, or mistrust

  • Mood: loss of interest or pleasure in activities, guilt, or loneliness

  • Sleep: insomnia or nightmares

  • Also common: emotional detachment or unwanted thoughts

Additionally, many people choose to seek support from their faith community rather than seeking a medical diagnosis. In many Black communities in the U.S the church, mosque or other faith institution can play a central role as a meeting place and source of strength.

Even though our mental health gap is starting to look like the financial wealth gap from a closer look but In the last decade it’s becoming more popular and less of a stigmatized topic in the community as “celebrities & influential figures” have begun to come out & speak about their journey’s and show their support of it. We can name a few Charlamagne The God, Brandon Marshall, Marlon Wayans, and Ben Simmons just to name a few. I believe we as a culture have a duty to our future descendants to get tested, educate ourselves on the forms of mental illness as well as the signs, and build our own facilities & hire our own doctors to treat us with an established comfort of trust already built.


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