The discussion of mental health and illness occurs very little in the black community. Too often we view having a mental health diagnosis as stigmatic. In fact, 1 in 4 adults suffer from mental illness and 1 in 5 youth between the ages 13 to 18 experience mental illness.
We often know of our family history of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, but we fail to know our family history of mental illness. When individuals walk into my practice, I routinely ask, “Is there a history of mental illness in the family?” and invariably many respond no. How is it possible that mental illness and other brain-based disorders, often run unawares in families?
This is simply because we fail to share this vital information with each other and we fail to pay attention to the signs that mental illness has developed in our loved ones. Many of us are predisposed to become depressed, diagnosed with ADHD or bipolar disorder. In fact, there are genetic markers making you predisposed for these disorders. Mental illness can happen to anyone regardless of his or her educational status, gender, economic bracket, race or religion. It doesn’t discriminate.
There are discrepancies in how we view mental illness. More often, majority cultures and those who have medical insurance or are financially stable and secure, don’t believe it is a death sentence and can then access treatment. Others who ignore the signs for different reasons, question whether their doctor is over-diagnosing the disorder and resort to some sort of self-medication to treat their illness, which can include drug and alcohol abuse and food, sex and self-mutilation addiction.
Let’s break that cycle now!
Very few pastors and clergy bring up the discussion of mental illness, or when they do, they often make light of the subject and tell their congregation not to worry. To that I would say that, as a Christian, I believe in constant communication with God about challenges we face in life. However, I also know that God sends psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists as a resource to help you and I manage and cope with mental illness.
It’s frustrating to hear people say they don’t want to take medication to treat depression, anxiety, ADHD and bipolar disorder because they believe it can alter their mind and turn them into another person. It is my professional opinion that, medication typically levels out the chemical imbalance that naturally occurs in your brain so that you or your family can function with normalcy. Medication and talk based therapy is touted as the best way to mental illness.
Don’t let another day go by where we don’t discuss mental illness and treatments with our family members. It has the ability to improve and save the life of our loved ones.
The management and staff of Caribbean Insight, encourages their readers to support persons with mental illness in their community by becoming aware and informed on the issues of mental illness and keeping note of all the crisis hotlines that are available in their country that can help you or someone you may know that is struggling with mental illness. Remember that you do not have to deal with this alone. Talk to someone today!