Recently I watched fellow Ghanaian-American Kofi Siriboe’s video called “What The F*ck Is Mental Health?”. Man, let me tell how much of a relief to see a young African, and black man tackles the issue of mental health and helping break the silencing that has existed in black and African homes for decades.
In the Teen Vogue interview ‘Kofi Siriboe Addresses Mental Health in the Black Community in New Project’, Kofi points out a crucial fact that hits the nail on the head about the stigma of the mental health in the black community: “I realized my own resistance around mental health as a concept and realized my resistance was only rooted in misunderstanding. I feel like that’s common in the black community — there’s a lot of stigma. There aren’t many spaces created for us to openly talk through our emotions and how they affect our lives. We’re so used to depressing our feelings until we actually believe they don’t exist”.
This statement is so true. I have personally witnessed, ignorantly been involved with promoting the stigma of mental health, and constant resistance to addressing mental health issues that not only plague myself and the black community, but the African diaspora at-large.
The concept of battling mental health disorders such as depression; bipolar disorder; anxiety; schizophrenia; post-traumatic stress disorder; obsessive-compulsive disorder; disruptive mood dysregulation disorder; borderline personality disorder; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, among other mental disorders that plague black and African households are more than people once thought.
Growing up as a young black male in America, I was wrongly taught that black people don’t have depression or suicidal thoughts, that stuff was for white folks-not us.
In an African household, mental health issues are treated as a spiritual disorder that needs to be prayed away and you have the devil/shaytan in you. To most African elders, you just aren’t reading enough of the Bible or Holy Qur’an and offering enough sincere prayers.
In a Black American household, mental health issues are to be pressed deep down “you need to suck it up! Stop acting like a whimp”, or someone in the neighborhood thinks they can herb your depression away with some acai berries, and tree root. Now, this isn’t to discount the power of prayer, and herbal ways of healing, these are powerful methods to practice and use.
Nevertheless, mental health issues that affected our parents, their parents, and their parents’ parents before them continue to eat away at the black community, and the African diaspora. Causing a host of other issues that affect not only our minds, but our mindsets, spiritual-selves, and ultimately, directly and indirectly, affect much of our progress as a people.
We need to get past the stigma of mental health and start treating it like other health issues such as cancer, or diabetes. If not attended to in the proper and timely fashion, mental issues unchecked can also cause great harm and even death.
Just as it is pointed out in the ‘WTF Is Mental Health’ video, mental health is like physical health; taking care of your mind is crucial to (y)our survival.
I am happy to see Kofi Siriboe, a young African-American male helping to broaden our understanding of mental health and how it affects us and our communities. We as a people who have been crushing blows of colonialism and slavery that seeking out mental help doesn’t make us weak, but stronger. After we truly figure out what the f*ck is mental health, we need to figure out how the f*ck we properly tackle it.