The Essence of Mental Health

When it gets to black people and mental health we rarely seek out the services we need. Typically we talk to pastors and elders who encourage us to pray it away and not talk to professionals or take medications. In our community we are quick to label people as crazy and whisper to others about that person instead of trying to understand what is wrong with them and be supportive of what they are going through. Our ignorance as a community when it gets to mental health allows for such tragedies as we have seen this fall with the Navy yard shootings and the fatal DC car chase both cases involved Black people with mental health issues. While I like most of you am only privy to to the biased information reported to us by the news. As a mental health professional I view things through a clinical set of lenses. Both tragedies could have been avoided if the people around them would have known the signs and symptoms of unmedicated mental disorders and what to do. Instead black people are so afraid of what they don’t know and so stuck with the view of praying something away or being strong enough to over come it they can’t see and deal with mental disease and defect for what it is. When having a heart attack or a stroke you’re not trying to pray that away or talk yourself into being strong enough to overcome it, you call for help-so why not call for help with physiologically based mental health issues. People even use the excuse of not wanting to tell all their business to someone of another race, they would rather talk to someone who understands them. There are plenty of Black therapists out there providing a service you need so now whats your excuse?? Lives have been lost all because we (Black people) as a community continue to wallow in our ignorance when it gets to mental illness. My mother’s half brother has schizophrenia. He is presently off his medication and has turned all the tv’s in his apartment to face the walls because there are people coming out of the tv’s and he has been urinating out his window on unsuspecting civilians below. Her family is quick to talk about him and say he “has lost his mind” or “gone crazy”. They are quick to sit in judgement of him and gossip about him but no one is trying to help him. He is not any “crazier” then he has always been, he stopped taking his medication. He needs a 5-7 day hospital stay to be stabilized on medications again and he will be fine. Truthfully he needs to be on a monthly injectable medication to increase medication compliance. Her family is responding from a place of ignorance and fear and not trying to help. So long as Black people are afraid of mental illness and busy praying about it instead of being proactive tragedies will continue to ensue. Mental illness is not just something that happens to White people, it happens to all people. Genetics are just a role of the dice and you never know what you are going to get. Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder are hereditary, just because its in your family does not mean you will get it. However, you do need to understand what it is and how it works as you may end up with a child that will have it. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one take them or yourself in for an assessment. 90 minutes of your time could help to avoid future tragedies.