• Breaking Barriers

Mental Health - The Taboo Topic

Updated: Mar 20, 2018


Author: Antonio R.


Mental health is as equally important as physical health; however, a number of mental health illnesses, especially within the black community, are untreated. Mental Health America (MHA) found that of the 45.7 million people in the U.S. who identifies as Black or African American, 6.8 million people had a diagnosable mental illness in the past year. These statistics are startling, but exist because of socioeconomic disparities and racism. The income inequality that forces countless Black Americans into poverty, under-resourced neighborhoods and schools, creates unhealthy stress and pressure to make ends meet. Remnants of slavery and the era of Jim-Crow coupled with displacement, mass incarceration, and violence (state-sanctioned or not), has a negative effect on an individual’s mental health and psyche.

Beyond the causes of mental health illnesses, inaccessibility to health care does not permit Black Americans to receive treatment. Moreover, seeking therapy is not often encouraged because someone with poor mental health may appear “sound;” however, mental health can manifest itself physiologically. Fatigue, change in appetite, unexplained physical ailments, and substance abuse are prime examples. With poor mental health, you cannot perform your best. While the larger, historical-structural issues change, if at all, incrementally, there are actions everyday people can take to maintain good mental health:

  1. Understanding the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress. Healthy stress is apparent when decision-making about positive aspects of life whereas unhealthy stress derives from the lack of or inability to make decisions.

  2. Finding an outlet: expressing emotion and how you feel is okay, just be courteous of others.

  3. Practicing self-care is crucial: taking time for yourself and perhaps, participating in leisure activities that you enjoy.

  4. If you are medically insured, ask your provider for information on therapists and counselors. Counseling should not be solely preemptive, it can be preventive as well.

  5. Remember to always uplift yourself and others with positive thoughts and words. Building your self-confidence does not make you arrogant, it shows the world that you value yourself and others around you.

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