Black community needs to talk about mental health

Brea Jones/ Staff Writer

In the black community, there’s an unhealthy mentality of needing to put on a facade for the rest of the world. We don’t publicly speak about the problems within our community because we worry it’ll make us seem weak. We end up ignoring serious problems that plague our community because of the pathetic fear of how other races will perceive us.

African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness. That alone should cause people to realize that this is a real problem that needs to be addressed.

Black women aren’t allowed to have a mental illness in today’s society because if they’re upset or bothered by something, they are instantly labeled. If she shows any negative emotion, she is automatically pinned as “the angry black girl.” And it doesn’t help that black women are also judged based off of their appearance and attitude.

Although there’s no real way to determine what is causing mental health in the black community, I honestly believe the pressure to be so perfect plays a role.

We never feel as though we are good enough because we are constantly trying to appease our parents and the people around us. It becomes a chain of who can impress who, causing people to forget that we are human.

Since my sophomore year of high school, I suffered from mental illness. I took tests and conducted research, but I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure how others would react.

Just like other black youth, I felt as though no one would understand my feelings. I didn’t want the people in my life to blame themselves and think my mental illness was their fault.

And so, I did what most black youth do when confronting with a similar situation — I kept it quiet, submerging myself in work.

However, this isn’t the case for most black youth as many turn to drugs to find an escape from the pain they feel instead of addressing and fixing their problems.

The topic of mental health just became prominent within the last five to ten years so the discussion and information is still very new. My biggest fear is that parents will say things like, “you have a good life, people have it much harder than you” or “what do you have to be so depressed or anxious about?”

I fear that parents will say such things not fully understanding that it’s possible for the parent and the child to have different perceptions of the child’s life.

Black parents need to be open to listening to their children, their fears and their emotions, rather than invalidating it because of age.

Just because we are younger doesn’t mean we aren’t entitled to our feelings and emotions. Saying tasteless phrases such as, “There ain’t nothing wrong with you” or “stop pretending” doesn’t help.

I want the black youth to be aware that it’s okay to have mental health issues and to know that they are not alone.

As a community, black people need to educate themselves on the topic of mental illness and be open to the possibility that it may affect someone in their family. Starting a discussion on mental health is a much needed first step in healing the community.



The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash.

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