The misconceptions about mental health in the Black community prevent many people from seeking help. In the first place, mental health is not a White people issue. Mental illness can affect anyone; it does not discriminate. We should not have to say Black Mental Health Matters because all mental health matters. However, since it is Black History Month, let us explore why most Black people are affected by mental health struggles.
Mental illness in the Black community is a topic that is still considered taboo. So, people of color choose to suffer in silence. But why is that? To understand the reason behind the stigma, keep reading.
According to Mclean Hospital, “starting in the 1600s, Black people in the United States first faced oppression in the form of slavery. The fact that a group of people was once considered property instead of human beings, and the effects this continues to have on people of African descent, cannot be underestimated.”
One might say, “Why are you bringing up something that happened years ago? Get over it.” Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds to get over generational trauma that affected our ancestors and parents and continues to affect every generation.
The cycle continues until someone in the family decides to break the generational curse. Nevertheless, it is a difficult feat because many people do not have a support system or understanding of their emotions.
In addition, there is a negative belief about trusting White doctors. Historically, we all know the laws put in place to justify abusing Black people in the United States. Black people were oppressed and restricted from the same rights as White people. Many issues are still unresolved. For example, people of color are less likely to move up in the workplace, obtain fair housing, or receive certain services more readily available to White people.
How can you improve your mental well-being?
The first step is to break the negative stigma around mental health. Here is a list of negative beliefs we live by:
- Keeping family matters private
- Believing therapy is not necessary
- Thinking prayer alone will solve all our problems
- The mindset of being strong and undermining the necessity of self-care
The list goes on and on — if you know what I mean.
Regardless, once you recognize you need help, stop waiting for your parents to dictate what is right or wrong. At some point, you must choose self-care because you deserve peace.
Stop relying only on friends, church, and the community for support. Many Black people use spirituality as an excuse to avoid getting professional help. And in most cases, they are shamed and considered weak for considering therapy.
Nonetheless, do not let the negative opinions of others stop you from seeking professional help. Mental stability is a strength, not a weakness. You must be willing to get help, including working your problems out with a therapist.
Do your research to find a therapist that fits your needs. Allow yourself to be open-minded about this journey. The important part is that you are getting help regardless of race.
If you are in a place where you cannot afford therapy or are still not ready to take the next step, below is a list of self-care techniques to help you improve your well-being:
- Learn to prioritize your mental health
- Check in with yourself daily
- Make a safe space for yourself and others
- Find some self-care methods that work for you, such as meditating, journaling, reading
- Find a physical activity you enjoy and practice regularly, like walking, yoga, or sports
- Give yourself love, kindness, and compassion
- Provide support to others who may be struggling with their mental health
- Most importantly, reparent yourself
Being mindful of your emotions is not a sign of weakness. Self-awareness is an invaluable skill. Anyone living with depression and anxiety is capable of learning coping mechanisms. Therefore, you must get help and educate yourself about this topic.
The best way to improve your situation is to seek professional help. Breaking the stigma starts with you. So what are you going to do?