The Importance of Mental Health in the Black Community
Mental health is not something that is talked about often in the Black community; and yet, it's an essential aspect of physical health and life satisfaction. The Black community in particular suffers from an alarming rate of mental health issues, some of which include anxiety and depression. The increased psychological struggles in the Black community result in part from the lack of access to appropriate, culturally responsive mental health care and resources. It also stems from prejudice and racism ingrained in the daily circumstances of Black individuals, and from historical trauma passed on to the Black community.
Despite the improvement we've seen in recent years, there's still a strong stigma associated with mental health. Destigmatizing mental health can be accomplished by helping people understand that mental health is a crucial part of well-being — just like a good diet, sleep, and exercise.
Of course, facing metastatic breast cancer is no easy feat. On top of that, I fell and broke my femur – which led me into a deep depression. I had emergency surgery where a rod and two screws were put into my femur, which was extremely painful, but the hardest part of breaking my femur was rehabbing myself and being alone sometimes. My daughter was with me when she could be, but her work did not approve her request for leave, so it was just me and my dog, Dutch Dutch.
My sister and cousin came for a short time to help, but I was worried about what would happen when they left. I couldn’t drive and I had a hard time getting back and forth up the steps. I had my nurse and physical therapist come to my house because I had to start rehab immediately, but other than that – I was alone. I had to learn how to use the bathroom a certain way, take a shower and walk the steps – all while continuing to face mBC.
People would ask me about my femur and how I was recovering, but very few asked about my mental health. What got me through this depression was my daughter, my therapist, God, and a couple of beautiful friends of mine who would call to ask a simple question that meant everything to me: “Are you okay?”
I knew I needed help, and I knew that it would get better if only I could get through the first couple of weeks, which were the hardest part of my recovery. But having friends check in to see how I was really doing… do you know how good that felt? Those three words made a big difference in my life. I did get through it. I survived it. I learned that it was okay to feel – to feel hopeless and scared. Most importantly, I also learned that it's okay to seek help.
A mental health worker can play an essential role in treatment, and it is necessary to work and communicate well with yours. It's important to know that efforts towards social justice among the Black community will remain incomplete until the disparities experienced by the Black community are addressed. Exploring mental health treatment is a part of overall well-being. I’ve learned that prioritizing mental health is not a sign of weakness but rather an act of courage and strength.
I always try to seek out culturally responsive providers and encourage my friends and community to do the same. I make sure my provider is aware of my background and educated on the different health and cultural circumstances that come with it by prioritizing open communication and mutual respect. I also try to ask lots of questions about my provider’s treatment approach to evaluate if they are including a cultural framework in their recommendations and prioritizing my personal needs. Lastly, I look for a provider who is not just knowledgeable but also affirmative and uplifting of my background so that I know they will have my back and help me access the resources I need.
I've been seeing my therapist for about a year now and seeing her was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I never wanted her to fix me, but I wanted her to show me a different path to make it through all the things that were going on in my life. Because of the professionals I've encountered in the past, I'm in a better state of mind, and I continue to work on myself and only myself. I can’t change other people, but I can work on helping myself.
Sometimes life is like a jigsaw puzzle. Once you find the pieces and put them all together the puzzle becomes your masterpiece. And that’s what I am…a masterpiece.