Growing up, I spent a whole lot of time at church.
Thursday nights meant going to rehearsal with my parents for the adult choir. Friday evenings were for youth service and teen choir. Sunday mornings were spent in the children’s sanctuary learning choruses and memorizing Bible verses. And if I was with my grandmother, we’d go back for Sunday evening service, too.
Black folks are brought up with the Word—but depression and mental illness aren’t something we can just pray away.You can't just pray it away. #B4MH Click To Tweet
Although prayer, meditation, mantras and chanting can all be used as coping mechanisms, overcoming mental illness often requires professional help. While many African Americans are fighting a daily battle with mental illness, our unwillingness to seek therapy or medication is a learned behavior.
“During slavery, you were supposed to be the strong one. You weren’t supposed to speak. You were supposed to just do,” Esney M. Sharpe, founder and CEO of the Bessie Mae Women’s Health Center in East Orange, New Jersey told the Huffington Post.
The myth of the strong black woman, the fear of being labeled as “crazy,” and lack of adequate health care can keep black people from accessing the resources they need.
“Our cultures place a significant emphasis on us being silent about our struggles, taking care of everyone else before ourselves, turning to religion in an effort to overcome, and on being strong in the face of adversity-particularly in the face of oppression, racism and other socioeconomic stressors, ” says mental health advocate Jasmine Banks. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), African Americans living below the poverty level are three times more likely to report serious psychological distress–but many more suffer in silence.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, bloggers are coming together and sharing their stories in an effort to normalize the discussion of mental health. There’s nothing for us to be ashamed of–and by telling our truth, we’re helping to touch people across the world.
Follow along on social media using the hashtags #BloggersForMentalHealth and #B4MH–and if you or someone you know is struggling, get help.
- If it’s an emergency and you or someone you know is suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room.
- If you can wait a few days, make an appointment with your primary healthcare provider or pediatrician if you think your condition is mild to moderate.
- If your symptoms are moderate to severe, make an appointment with a specialized doctor, such as a psychiatrist. You may need to contact your community mental health center or primary health care provider for a referral.
- Seek out support groups in your community and educate yourself about your symptoms and diagnosis. Social support and knowledge can be valuable tools for coping.