“I’m Just Saying..”:: Fighting The Black Mental Health Stigma

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Anxiety. Depression. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. To many people, those words describe their Tuesday. But if these issues affect your daily life for a significant amount of time it may be a more serious circumstance. I’m pretty sure you have said or have heard someone you know say something like “Black people don’t commit suicide, that’s what white people do” or “black people don’t get depressed“. And the more popular, “black people don’t go to counseling, what happens in this house stays in this house.”

Ignoring and hiding issues only makes mental health issues worse. Too many of us act as if mental health issues do not exist. Yet, there are more and more cases of black females  driving into rivers and oceans or through White House checkpoints with their children in the car, because of mental issues they haven’t dealt with. The only thing that needs to be thrown into the ocean is the stigma that African Americans don’t need to go to counseling or mental health aid. Life gets hard and as humans we need to deal with it appropriately. But there is a right and a wrong way to deal with it.

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We as African Americans have a traumatic history: Slavery, post Slavery, Civil Rights Era, and the Reconstruction era (present day). But have we truly dealt with the emotions that have come as a result of our ancestors struggles? During the Civil Rights Era, during the sit down demonstrations, African Americans did not show emotions to the verbal and physical abuse. Instead, they held it in and took it. However they only had to hold it in front of their enemy. They were able to release their emotions in a safe place.  Although that tactic was necessary then, have we created a negative generational and cultural effect?

Webster defines counseling as, “the provision of assistance and guidance in resolving personal, social, or psychological problems and difficulties, usually by a professional.” Counseling is a simply a safe place for conversing with someone and asking for advice about a problem from a professional or a friend. Sharing your thoughts and emotions with a stranger can seem embarrassing, but it is proven to be very beneficial. A therapist is a professional and sessions are confidential. Legally, they cannot share your deepest darkest secrets. It can’t get any safer than that.

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We’ve got to stop ignoring our issues and start dealing with them. Counseling is more than just constantly talking about your problems, but it helps you take control by finding solutions to your problems. There is nothing wrong with discussing or venting your issues with a friend for guidance. But if you or your friend do not have the right answers or are too emotionally involved I advise you to seek a non partisan professional.  Don’t let pride, fear and even laziness prevent you from simply asking someone for help. Dealing with mental matters take effort. Counseling is more than laying on a couch. It takes effort putting the puzzle pieces back together and it can take time. Don’t let the work deter you.

The African proverb states that “it takes a village to raise a child.” So I ask you, why can’t a professional counselor be a part of the village?

I’m Just Saying

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