It’s apropos that as we move through the holiday season, one in which many Blacks suffer from the “holiday blues,” that this health supplement addresses the problem of mental health while offering our readers ways to both recognize this challenge and to find ways to promote healthier outcomes.
Research has long indicated that African-Americans already face premature death due to health disparities that include higher rates of some cancers, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. But race and racism also significantly contribute to Blacks’ higher propensity to mental health distress.
And because our community tends to assert that “only white people can afford to be human, be vulnerable and seek mental health care,” we are often prone to ignore the signs or to avoid treatment and therapy.
Centuries-old archetypes project Black women as having nerves of steel and bodies that can withstand anything. As for Black men, we’re expected to push on and persevere, no matter what, until we simply drop dead or just give up. However, as Keith Washington, Ph.D., president of the Association of Black Psychologists emphasizes, “Racism and our response to it kills us more than anything.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health states that Blacks are 10 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic whites. Research shows that as many as two-thirds of people with depression do not seek treatment and that Blacks are less likely to get treatment than non-Hispanic whites.
And while the church is more often the place Blacks turn for mental and emotional relief, the average clergy person is ill-equipped to help one handle most of the “madness” that comes our way each day. Messages abound suggesting that we need to “pray harder,” or “have more faith” if we want to be healthy and happy. But the problems are often more severe than we realize and therefore require the assistance of trained professionals.
As the theme for this supplement innocently states: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” — the title from a popular song by the a cappella singer Bobby McFerrin released in the late ’80s to rave reviews — such simple messages should not lead us to wallow in depression and mental anguish. Rather, we should look for ways to “promote more positive mental health” — the second part of our theme.
Sometimes, just knowing that you are not alone can make a difference in the healing process. We must, in effect, “open up to open up.” Further, we must not allow the stigma of mental health found so prevalently within the Black community to deter us from looking for and accepting help.
So, are you ready to live beyond the pain? Are you tired of experiencing various cycles of depression throughout every decade of your life? And, are you willing to claim release from mental health issues so that you can reclaim your freedom? If so, we hope and pray that this supplement will put you on the road to recovery.
You may also wish to visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website for valuable resources, or call 800-950-NAMI. Finally, go to africanamericantherapist.com to find Black therapists in major U.S. cities, including the District.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking help. You are not alone. Help is available that will provide you with a greater focus on methods that promote a life of psychological well-being. Enjoy the rest of your life. Enjoy today!