If you don’t keep up with the entertainment industry, you may have missed Chance the Rapper’s interview with Complex Magazine. He talked about his daughter, his grammy wins, his album Coloring Book, and his battle with anxiety. Excuse me while I go listen to the album again and cry tears of joy that another black man has brought awareness to this issue…
In his interview he says,
“I think anxiety is also something that I’m just now being exposed to. A really big conversation and idea that I’m getting introduced to right now is black mental health. ‘Cause for a long time that wasn’t a thing that we talked about. I don’t remember it. I don’t remember people talking about anxiety; I don’t remember, when I was growing up, that really being a thing.”
Throughout his interview you find almost every reason as to why we don’t seek help. Misunderstanding, faith and his past all play a part of why he’s just now, at 23, realizing he has anxiety.
He’s not the only person of influence who has spoken about a personal struggle with mental illness. Last year Kid Cudi wrote an open letter to his fans about his struggle with depression and suicide before checking himself into rehab. Kendrick Lamar opened up about his mental health struggles a few years ago and in his song God is Gangsta. (I warn you it is graphic but it’s a must see!) But you don’t have to be a person of prominence to make a difference for an issue this big! I’ve had countless people thank me for just doing a monologue about mental health awareness (Like Dreaming, Backwards is one of the best) or sharing a few facts at an event. All you have to do is speak!
Chance the Rapper, thank you for giving black mental illness a voice!
When we look at the issue of mental health in the black community, we have to ask ourselves, “why is it this way?”. There are dozens of reasons why an individual won’t seek help but there a few that are specific to the black community. I’ve mapped out 13 reasons why and this post will take you through the first 4.
Misunderstanding Mental Health– Since the black community is reluctant to talk about the topic of mental health black people don’t understand it as a condition but rather a weakness. We have to come to realize it’s not just the “blues” or something we can just snap out of but a real illness. Simple education of mental health can help fix this.
Faith, Spirituality and Community – In the black community we lean on each other in times of distress but this can hinder us from seeking professional help. When my doctor wrote my prescription for antidepressants he told me to go to church and join an organization on campus too. We can’t just rely on one or the other, use every resource at your disposal. Which brings me to number 3…
Access to Mental Health Services – Only 25% of black people seek help for mental illness. When it comes to health services we are distrusting and lack access to health insurance. NAMI finds another issue to be the lack of black mental health professionals. We have to find ways around this to get help. As for the first and last issue, healthgrades.com can help you find someone you can trust.
Provider Bias and Care Inequality – With the lack of black mental health professionals there comes the issue of lack of cultural competence, which can lead to misdiagnosis. Don’t let this stop you from seeking help, finding the right provider can help eliminate this issue for an individual.
So now that we’ve gone through and these reasons and been offered solutions for them, why don’t you seek you help?
Sorry, but this post has nothing to do with Jordan Peele’s movie Get Out. This blog was created to help end the stigma surrounding mental health in the black community and we can’t begin to do that until we educate ourselves. So, for my very first post let’s learn about mental illness!
“any of a broad range of medical conditions … that are marked primarily by sufficient disorganization of personality, mind, or emotions to impair normal psychological functioning … associated with a disruption in normal thinking, feeling, mood, behavior, interpersonal interactions, or daily functioning”.
In my own words though, mental illness is like constantly trying to catch up to your mind. It’s like you’re sinking in your own thoughts and insecurities with no lifeguard or flotation device in sight.
Mental Illness can refer to any of a number of illnesses; including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and many many more. As a community the first thing we have to learn how to do is ACCEPT THAT THESE ILLNESSES ARE REAL. A mental illness is no different than an illness of the heart or any other organ in the human body. Let me say that again for the people in the back.
MENTAL ILLNESS IS NO DIFFERENT THAN AN ILLNESS OF THE HEART OR ANY OTHER ORGAN IN THE HUMAN BODY.
Too often in the black community we toss it aside and don’t seek out the proper help. Leaving our brothers and sisters to go off the deep end. As a collective we need to begin to better understand these illnesses not just to help ourselves but to help each other.
Your mental health matters because without it you cannot be healthy.