“For years I have dedicated myself to increasing awareness of mental health and empowering people to recognize when it’s time to seek help, support and guidance from those that believe, love, and care for your well being. I have recently listened to the same advice I have given to thousands around the world and sought help from a great team of healthcare professionals. Today, I proudly and happily stand here as someone who will continue to always lead by example as I tirelessly advocate for the betterment of those in need. IF YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND, YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE.”- Michelle Williams
As far back as I can remember asking for help via licensed professionals has always been viewed as a sign of weakness in the black community. I’ve never fully understood why seeking medical attention was taboo. But, it is because of this thought process in our community that many are battling everyday with mental illnesses not even family are fully aware of. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Common mental health disorders among African Americans include:
Major depression, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Suicide, and PTSD (Posttraumatic stress disorder.
Mental health plays a very significant part in how we handle and live life daily. Being mentally unhealthy causes the body to become sick including the brain. This is not to be confused with emotional rollercoasters that we all have experienced throughout our lifetime, mental illnesses causes difficulties in handling even the smallest tasks to be accomplished. It also causes a shift in thinking, mood, and the ability to identify or relate to others. Instead of seeking treatment, a lot of African Americans fall under three categories in “coping” with symptoms of mental illnesses like stress, anxiety, and frustration. The three categories are alcohol, drugs, or spirituality. This is not at all surprising for the black community to escape to these coping mechanisms instead of seeking professional help because there is a huge distrust with medical professionals giving quality care to the black community. Although the distrust is there in the community, it is important to still seek out medical professionals who provide quality care even if that means starting out with a primary care physician rather than a specialist or therapist.
It is our responsibility as members of this community to not continue to sweep mental illnesses under the rug. Let’s be bold enough to talk about it and empathetic enough to family and/or friends that may be dealing with this. It is a very long road ahead of us but as more individuals like Michelle Williams gain a voice in awareness of mental illnesses, seeking treatment, and as we make an effort to understand the illnesses, we will overcome this. Because after all, overcoming is what we do!