by Farida Dawkins, at 06:16 am, February 01, 2018, Features, Lifestyle

#BellLetsTalk 2018: Mental health through the lens of African-Americans

The hashtag movement #BellLetsTalk emerged in 2010 as a segue to open up the conversation surrounding mental illness and to cease the stigma around individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental ailments. This is great except; the discussion is still a taboo in the Black community.

The National Alliance on Mental Health reports that “although anyone can develop a mental health problem, African Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions due to unmet needs and other barriers.”

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Issues such as discrimination, past trauma – often passed from generation to generation unless nipped in the bud, poverty, violence and the pressures of being sole providers – can exacerbate depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Another imperative mention is the lack of adequate mental health facilities, distrust for medical providers, mental health providers not being properly educated or versed in treating the African-American community, and the disproportionate amount of Blacks that are under-insured or not insured at all.  Therapy and medication are quite expensive.

African-Americans are often forced to wear a “superman” or “superwoman” cape. We are not to whine or ask for help. We are told to pray and grin and bear the pain.  However, like rapper Jay-Z proclaimed “you can’t heal what you don’t reveal.” Finding a safe space and trusted source to discuss mental health disparities is imperative for optimal health. Unchecked depression can lead to suicide.

Depression is a mood disorder that can be caused by genetics, life situations such as finances, marital status, and other relational stresses, and drug and alcohol use.  Anxiety is the feeling of being in constant worry; waiting for the proverbial “ball to drop.” This anxious feeling is definitely dangerous because it exhausts your nervous system making the afflicted susceptible to other serious sicknesses such as high blood pressure and heart problems. PTSD is an incapacitating type of anxiety usually onset by a shocking or life-threatening event.

Firstly, the conversation about mental illness needs to be held within families. No shame or guilt.  No huge expectations of maintaining strength when a person is on the brink of despair.  Next, professional help in the form of talk therapy or medication administered by a therapist or qualified mental health professional in certain cases is necessary.

Some illnesses such as Bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia NEED to be regulated by medication. Thirdly, change of surroundings is a great start on the road to healing – traveling, not spending time with toxic, unsupportive, and negative people, journaling and engaging in relaxing and worthwhile activities help calm the nerves.  Exercise, meditation, and prayer are also great alleviators of stress – which can assist in lowering depression and anxiety.

Some natural remedies that can be implemented are reducing or eliminating caffeine from the diet – caffeine is a strong stimulant that can worsen anxiousness.  Upping the intake of vitamins such as B12, D, zinc, L-lysine, and omega fatty acids can restore the depletion of needed minerals – which can cause depressive moods or anxiety disorders.  Aromatherapy – smelling certain scents such as citrus, lavender, and vanilla can soothe the senses which can translate into a better mood.

This list isn’t all-inclusive nonetheless, taking active and relevant approaches to ensuring a healthy mind is important for African-Americans – especially since our challenges can be underrepresented. Inadequate representation shouldn’t stem from our own backyards.

Here are some of the conversations occurring on Twitter concerning #BellLetsTalk 2018:


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