A Discussion About Black Mental Health

For many people growing up and expressing their own mental health with their family or friends can be open and free. But for others, it can be seen as shameful and secretive. A Surgeon General report stated that African Americans are overrepresented in risks of mental health.

 

LACK OF REPRESENTATION IN MEDIA

Mental health in the black community can be inexistent in representation through media. If you were to search "depression" or "anxiety" on Google you'll find pictures such as the ones shown below, none of which are people of color. 

 

Photo taken by Maliyah Worthy

The screenshot above an example of the lack of representation for mental health in the black community. Mental health portrayed by black characters are rarely seen in TV shows, books, movies and news.

Can you remember a show that accurately depicts a black person struggling with a mental disorder?

 

IMAGES

Group of Women and Men Standing on Gray and White Concrete Floor

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Black people are to uphold an image of having to be strong and independent. When a black woman suffers from a mental disorder she is seen as weak. And if she confides in anyone she's often told to "pray about it" instead of seeking help from a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.

Abri Witchett, a Georgia State sophomore, has had problems with talking to her family about mental health.

“My family would say that you have to seek God or you are just being hormonal. I was ashamed of [dealing with depression]. I was told that I just need to [snap] out of it. It was as if they were afraid to confront that something was happening,” said Witchett.

 

MYTHS

modular building myths

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There is an underlying myth that circulates in the black community about mental health. The portrayal of being weak and hopeless when expressing that you have a mental health disorder carries on through generations.

“If you think about stereotyping…  mental health is talked about in the black community as people white people [problems]. Saying the only people that can be depressed are white people because they can afford pills and doctors,” Witchett said.

Clinical depression can happen in anyone regardless of race, gender and socioeconomic status.

Kayla Waldron, a Georgia State sophomore, shares her beliefs on what types of myths are held in the black community.

“It’s a white disease. If somebody's depressed they are perceived as lazy. People don’t want to try to find out what’s really going on. Just tough it out. People tend to compare their loads saying ‘If I can carry this then you should have no problem,’” Waldron said.

In the black community, depression is seen as something that should be cleared in a week but this is not the case. It must be sought out through licensed professionals such as psychologist, counselors or a psychiatrist.

Waldron expressed that there are reasons why black people continue to believe in these myths regarding mental health.

“A lot of times, unfortunately, the black community, either we are not educated about ways to help with mental health therapy, meditation or cannot afford it. So they kind of make the issue less important than it actually is to circumvent the fact that they don’t have the financial stability to pay for it,” Waldron said.

Most of these responses about myths are different yet still similar in a way. These myths were carried on generation to generation. There should be more ways to overcome this.

 

Overcoming these Myths

There is a way to start thinking and planning things that can help prevent these myths from spreading further down generations.

“It’s going to take a lot of education. I feel like being black we are taught to be afraid to express, to feel things like sadness it’s seen as weakness. We have to recognize that we have feelings and we need to start talking about it,” Witchett said.

Only one and three African Americans who report mental health problems will receive appropriate treatment.

“We need to emphasize [that our] feelings are valid because [it's as if] we aren’t allowed to feel. This will allow them to open up. We need to know about the signs and dealing with others,” Waldron said.

Remember that mental illness can happen to anyone regardless of race or gender. It is important to know that mental illness is not a myth and it is something that must be dealt with.