Black Minds Matter
Destigmatizing Mental Health In the Black Community
Growing up the black community I knew that seeking help for mental health was seen as weird and taboo. Telling someone you are in therapy was like openly admitting to being that psycho killer from all the horror movies. There are a wide variety of mental health issues that stretch a wide spectrum of intensity that affect most of the population. Why does my community think it affects all these people, but not us? We want to be strong. We want to be the perfect embodiment of strength. We want to be built so strong that no one from the outside world could ever break us down. Having a mental health issue is seen as a weakness. It is the crack in the foundation that threatens to tear the whole structure down. Just like eye color and freckles this is something that is passed down from parent to child year after year. It is one of those generational curses that people are always talking about. One that needs to be broken now across the board. One that is causing more harm by having so many people not receive the help they need from fear of they will be perceived.
I was blessed with a progressive parent, although I did not always see it this way. In high school I was struggling with depression, anger management, and anxiety. My mother saw the signs and acted. I did not want to see a doctor I just wanted to drown out my pain with some Fall Out Boy. The parents of most of peers just ignored their issues or just firmly told them to get over it as if their depression would be so afraid of their parents’ stern voice that it would just go away forever. None of my friends were in therapy, at least nobody told me about it. That is not my story at all. My mother spent a lot of time researching therapist and psychiatrists. I had to switch therapists several times until she found someone good enough to give me what she considered the best care. At fifteen, I did not want to be seen as different. Even though my mom treated it like it was big deal, no different than getting a physical, I did not want anyone to know. I could not tell anyone because I felt ashamed. Keeping this a secret was particularly difficult considering how I got to all my appointments. My mom did not have a car, but she wasn’t going to let that get in the way of my care. I was picked up by a big white van with “Non-Emergency Medical Transportation” plastered on the side in big bold lettering. How mortifying. This van picked me up from school and from home which caused a lot of strange looks and few questions that I brushed off as calmly as possible.
If I knew then what I know now I would not have been so embarrassed. If I could talk to fifteen-year-old me I would say, “You’re not a weirdo! You are not the psycho killer from the movies, and you are not weak!” Mental Health is something we all struggle with. Anxiety is common. Depression is common. Most of the people you encounter everyday are struggling with similar issues and you do not know it. I hope that in the future in every community we can destigmatize mental health issues and all get the help that we need.