There are often many things within in our lives that we deal with that bring about a certain level of shame or embarrassment. For instance, have you ever been sitting at a red light minding your own business with your finger knuckles deep in your nose and you look over and the driver next to you is literally staring at you, embarrassed much? Or have you ever been in class taking a test and the teacher catches you red handed staring a hole in your neighbor’s paper because you didn’t have a clue what the answers were? Sure, we all have experienced one of these things before, if not both. These things may bring about a level of shame or embarrassment but more than likely you could tell your friends about it and you guys would have a great laugh. On the other hand, there are things that bring about shame or embarrassment that we wouldn’t dare discuss with anyone. Maybe your father is someone that you have never met before and could possibly be your next door neighbor but you wouldn’t know it because you have literally never seen his face before. Maybe you’re 15 years old and have 3 younger siblings who you have to take care of yourself because your mother is too busy and concern with her “man” who has no consideration for you or your siblings. These things we do not dare speak about to anyone; in fact, we hold them in until the point that we drive ourselves insane. On the outside, we seem fine but we are literally dying on the inside. These mental issues are just a few of the things that we within the African American community are dealing with on a daily. And it is these things that we must begin to discuss.
Mental health within our community is something that is taboo or looked at like something that you do not discuss with others. We have been brought up to think that if one is seeking out the help of a mental health professional that one is “crazy” or “weak”, this is such a ridiculous way of thinking. This idea that you must be “crazy or weak” to be going to see a mental health professional is killing our community and it must come to an end immediately.
Life is hard no matter what background one comes from but especially if one is coming from our community. We can argue all day about what the root cause of our condition is but that is for another day (don’t get me started, lol). Today we must begin to focus on ourselves and begin to become our own saviors, instead of blaming others for our problems and expected them to get us out of them. This begins with us talking, and not to those around us who are dealing with the same issues that we are, this will gets us nowhere. It’s no secret the problems that we are dealing with in our communities, lack of education, which leads to low paying jobs, which leads to poverty, which turns into hopelessness. This hopelessness turns into us giving up and turning to things that make us “feel good”, like sex, drugs, and alcohol. We turn to these things because they are all escapes, from the real things that we are going through that we desperately don’t want others to know about.
Try this story on for size.
Here we have a 15-year-old African American girl whose father is incarcerated and she hasn’t seen since she was 3 years old. Her mother is too busy for her because she is too caught up in living her “own life”. She had her daughter when she was 15 and feels she never had an opportunity to live “her” life. So, the girl turns to a young man who may be dealing with similar issues so they confide in each other emotionally but because they are too young to understand these emotions they believe that they are in love and began to have sex. Well, she becomes pregnant, she drops out of school in order to take care of the child that is inevitably on the way. The young man who is just as much responsible for the pregnancy as she is disappears literally because he has never had a father around so he has no clue of how to be one himself. The girl has the child who is a beautiful little baby boy but being a teenage mother she is barely making it. She is on her own and has little to no education. So what does she do, turn to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain that she is feeling of not being able to adequately provide for her son, that she so deeply loves. Now, here we have a young man whose father has never been around and mother couldn’t cope with the pain of being alone, so he, in turn, is also alone. It is this loneliness that kills. How does this kill exactly you might ask? Well, the young boy because of his loneliness turns to some “friends’ who are involved in selling drugs, they show him and “love” so he begins to sell drugs too. Then the young man meets a girl who he eventually gets pregnant and the day the baby is born the young man is gunned down in the streets due to a drug deal went bad and the cycle continues.
This story could have had a different outcome. If in the beginning that 15-year-old girl would have sought out the help of a mental health professional to talk to instead of the young man. This story could have turned out totally different. If that young lady seeks out the guidance of a mental health professional who specializes in these sorts of cases she could have begun to heal that pain and loneliness that she was feeling. Instead of getting pregnant and dropping out of school she could have gained control of her thoughts and feelings. She could have eventually graduated from high school and enter into college or into the workforce. Once she had gained control of her mental health she would be able to choose a young man for herself who is responsible and in the same good place mentally that she is in. They could acquire gainful employment, get married and begin to have children together, cycle ended.
It is impossible for us to deal with these sorts of issues alone; the only outcome of doing so will be a negative one. The story may not end in such a manner as I just previously described but we all know stories that have ended this way. As a matter of fact, the story very well could be our story, if so it’s never too late to seek the counsel of a mental health professional. Why is it that the African American community has such an issue with seeking this professional help that I speak of? There are many different answers to this question but my answer is, often times the professional that we seek out doesn’t look like us, therefore, we don’t trust them. This is very understandable. We are most comfortable with those who are like us this is just a fact of life. Well, there are those who look like us out there to help. It is up to us within the mental health profession to make ourselves available and become a staple of the community. Our minds are the only thing that can raise us up from the condition that we are in. We must begin to lift this idea that speaking about our problems to mental health professionals makes us “weak” or “crazy”. As long as we have this mentally towards mental health, I hate to say it but we will continue to remain in the state of mind that we have been in for WAY too long.
If you find yourself in a place where you feel that you are all alone with dealing with the issues of life and things are beginning to become too stressful for you to handle. Email me at email@example.com and I’ll help you get in touch with someone in your area that can help you find the resources that you need.