I’ll admit, that headline is rather bold, but it’s true. Recently I’ve been seeing posts circulating about mental illnesses within the black community being subsided and seen as an [unnecessary call-to-action]. For those of you not living within the realm I’m talking about, often (and not at all times), we are brought up to have tough skin because from birth, odds are mighty and strong against us.
What do I mean by that?
Well, as an African-American woman, I have both been told and have seen for myself what living in this society is like. Most of you may know as well (because of technology and social media) that African-Americans are heavily discriminated against and are seen as inferior in practically every aspect of being there can be. This has stemmed from slavery to present day in an unending agenda of keeping us from progressing. There are laws and lawmakers, people, and ideas that keep us down. I could go on about that but I’d prefer you all to do a little research for yourselves because this is not what my post is about. It is about the consequences of how we are affected day-to-day and within our own homes because of these factors and that we are single-handedly shaping our minds and how we behave.
Growing up I was always told that if I needed help I could talk to somebody. But it wasn’t just left at that. I would hear things such as:
“If you’re crazy, we can take you to someone and have you looked at.”
“I don’t understand why you behave like that. That’s white people stuff.”
“Let me get you tested so I can keep some extra money in my pocket.”
“You wanna kill yourself like the white kids?”
And usually it seemed to be in a sarcastic tone or followed by laughter; sometimes both. For me, it just always seemed like having a problem wasn’t something I could have. Now don’t get me wrong, there have been times as well that there was genuine concern, but when you grow up hearing these things all the time, it becomes engrained within your mental and you take it to heart. It’s honestly the reason why to this day I hesitate to seek therapy or counseling, because growing up it was…”a white people thing.”
Can I tell you about (personal opinion) the many other black people who have heard the same things I’ve heard? There are many of us! And it’s saddening because as a growing adult now, I see the affects and how it is playing out amongst my counterparts. Why is that we are subjected to hearing these sorts of things from childhood? Why is it that getting help or temporarily having an episode not okay? What is wrong with wanting to talk to someone if you don’t feel mentally stable? Why is it a joke?
Over the past week I have been contemplating the reasons why our families speak like this to each other and I’ve come up with one solidified answer: What we are seeing is generational. From slavery to now, we have been afflicted with the idea that we don’t compare to white people (being born with -1000 points against us as is) and we have been trying to build ourselves up because if we don’t, no one else will. I can’t even blame my ancestors and family members for doing so because that’s how our lives have always functioned! Can you imagine being born with pure innocence, having no clue of what the world holds for you and it is nothing but negativity? Could you imagine that every time you walk out your door for opportunity you are automatically seen as incompetent or incapable?! I’m frustrated as I write this but it is so true. And because of that right there, we see the mental capacity of our own people shifting.
We see from news stories to actual encounters that white people (and not just them) have their way of acting out and having mental problems so we feel like we can’t have those. We have to be stronger in some aspect because of course, we are “weak” in everything else. It’s almost like having any kind of imbalance is solely white related and because we’re black, we’re strong, we come from a lineage/ancestry of strong-willed people, we can’t have any of these issues because we’d be taking a few steps back for ourselves. At the same time, it’s not wrong from our perspective. Take a look at all the things we are already seen as: rapists, thugs, stuck on welfare, illiterate, criminals, murderers, etc. Adding mental illness on top is like the icing on the cake for white people. We can’t supply anything further in this baked up mess we already deal with, right?
Well that type of thinking is how we are seeing our people disintegrate now. We have so many people and things fighting against our abilities to succeed and here we are, trying to compensate in some way for what we see as inadequate and only hurting ourselves more. I’d like to share with all of you reading this, especially my black brothers and sisters, you don’t have to fight that fight any longer. We have ONE body, ONE life to live and because our minds pilot who we are, we can’t let the one essential thing we possess be taken away from us as well. These are different times; not completely but they are still different. We are getting degrees y’all. We have black brothers and sisters out here getting degrees in counseling and therapy and you can go to them if you just feel really compelled not to talk to any other race. Our people aren’t going to school just to say they did it. They are trying to make a difference out here. If it really bothers you to speak to a white person, try requesting a black person. I’m not sure how that works, but I know that as I begin seeking help myself, that’s what I plan to do.
We can’t continue to live in the mindset that we have to be strong on our own (mentally speaking); that we aren’t allowed to have weak moments; that we can’t trust people with our innermost thoughts because we don’t want to be judged. We need to seek the help we have available. And for my folks just now having kids or planning to have kids (heck, if you already do), begin to change the dynamic of the conversation when it comes to needing help. I have seen for my own eyes, literally right in front of me – flesh and blood – lash out because they were not treated and tended to like they should have been. Don’t let that be you. It is so heartbreaking to see family or my community go through this. Set yourself free from the mental suffering and get help. If white people have the ability to control everything else in society and laws about us, the one thing we can’t let them have are our minds. Mental illnesses and disorders are not just for them. They don’t discriminate against anyone and it can strike at any time.
Please share, comment, and/or like to spread the message. Although solely based off opinion and personal experience, I feel it can still make a difference.