BY Farida Dawkins, 8:39am December 21, 2017,

How to deal with mental health issues in your family

Mental health -- Photo Credit:

The holidays are upon us and it’s supposed to be a time of rejoicing and spending quality time with loved ones. Still and all, this season can trigger painful memories and exacerbate depressive moods in some individuals.  In the African-American community, mental health is a taboo subject and it is often stigmatized and not taken seriously until its effects are life-threatening or fatal.

We should be our brother’s and sister’s keeper and it pays to know that even though some of us may not personally deal with depression or the effects of traumatic experiences but a loved one may need our assistance. Let’s delve into some ways we can empower ourselves and each other.

Take care of your body and mind. We live in a busy world and it’s palpable to put ourselves on the backburner in order to cater to other’s needs nonetheless, we need to be in tune with our mental health status and the changes in our bodies that may be a detriment to our health. It’s imperative we’re able to drown out the distractions and become one with ourselves.

Be truthful with yourself. The initial step in solving a challenge is recognizing and accepting that there’s a problem, to begin with. You can’t conquer an issue if you’re in denial about it. Get that nagging pain checked out, converse with a trusted source about the traumatic issue you’ve kept buried inside. Yes, we’re derived from a lineage of strong and perseverant peoples, but we still need to accept that potency comes in unique forms and having a mental challenge doesn’t diminish your worth as a person. Take the mask off and get the help you need.

You can pray, and go to therapy. The good old “just pray about it” line is not a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health issues. Prayer is a powerful tool; or meditation if you’re not religious or spiritual. Nevertheless, if your health isn’t improving, you need to consider that you may need the assistance of a licensed mental health professional or a faith-based counselor.

It’s also pertinent to remember that depression isn’t just about sadness or “the blues”. There are other sicknesses that affect the black community, such as bipolar depression, attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),  schizophrenia, and anxiety to name a few.  A proper diagnosis can pinpoint the issue and begin the path to wellness.

Societal issues can affect you greatly. Mental health challenges can be brought on by factors such as perceived racism, a lower economic status which equates to a lesser quality of life, inadequate health care and distrust of healthcare professionals, exposure to violence or other traumatic experiences.  It’s important to know that it’s not just you and being aware of your surroundings and how circumstances leave a mark in your life can help you make better life decisions.

Your thoughts may be the problem. I’m a great supporter of cognitive behavior therapy.  Understanding that the messages we’ve learned throughout our lives and the thoughts that correlate with these messages and life experiences can be a factor in our emotions.  Having a “conqueror” state of mind greatly helps.  CBT can be practised without the help of a therapist as well. Also, be aware of the kind of company you keep; learn to love difficult individuals from a distance and surround yourself with individuals and things that keep you in a positive mood and state of mind.

Depression can affect anyone and varies in its degrees of severity.  African-Americans have a tumultuous past which includes slavery, abuse, etc.  Don’t think that stuffing your feelings will help you cope better with life’s challenges; it won’t. Recognizing your worth, getting the help you need, conversing about your challenges, and not being afraid to help a person suffering from depression by being an ear or hangout buddy can be some of the keys to a successful life.

See below what some of you are saying about depression within the black community:

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: September 15, 2018


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