Stop The Stigma. #BlackMentalHealth

In light of World Mental Health day, I have decided to write a post on Black Mental Health in particular, as I believe that we NEED to start talking about it more within the black community.

I recently watched a very interesting documentary on BBC THREE about mental illness within the black community. It was called “Being Black, Going Crazy?” and was presented by Keith Dube who you may also know as Mr Exposed. Watching this documentary opened my eyes to an issue which, being honest, I had never really considered before. To find out that as black people we are more likely to be diagnosed with a serious mental illness, was shocking, worrying and left me asking WHY?

On “Being Black, Going Crazy?” it was revealed that as a young black male you are 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious mental health issue. As black people we are also 6 times more likely to be an inpatient or sectioned in a mental health hospital. In fact, 56% of black inpatients in mental health hospitals have been sectioned! Now I am not naïve to the fact that the colour of our skin may affect the way we are treated by the police, at work and within education. But to find out that it may affect the treatment I receive in healthcare, scares me! The fact that as black people we are more likely to be sectioned because we are often seen as “more dangerous” leaves me feeling very sad.

We cannot, however, pin the black mental health issue solely on the healthcare system. As a lady in the “Being Black, Going Crazy?” Documentary pointed out, the problem often begins within our communities. Why is mental illness such a taboo subject within black communities?

Celebrities such as Kid Cudi, have recently spoken out about the issue, which I feel is extremely important! Kid Cudi revealed that he would be checking himself into rehab for depression and suicidal thoughts. Personally, I think that Kid Cudi making this news public is extremely beneficial for the black community as it may be the catalyst for us speaking more openly about the issue. Also Cudi taking action may just inspire someone out there who is suffering with a mental illness to go and seek help.

So in light of raising awareness of this issue, I will highlight five interesting yet important points about black mental health and hopefully through this I can both raise awareness of the issue and inspire someone else to raise awareness of the issue!

  1. As a black person you are much more likely to be diagnosed with Schizophrenia and other serious mental health illnesses. This fact shocked me the most. To think that even when it comes to medical health we are still a victim to racial prejudice. The fact that the colour of our skin sometimes plays a major role in us being diagnosed with a more serious illness than we actually have, is distressing.  More worryingly, this extreme diagnosis often results in black people being given unnecessarily high dosages. It shocked me to think that in 2016 there are still unaddressed issues like this within our healthcare systems. This needs to change.
  2. Hey black community… WE NEED TO DO MORE!! There should be NO SHAME attached to mental illness. As a community we need to ditch the stigma attached to mental illness and try to gain more of an insight and understanding of the issue. We have to let our brothers and sisters know that they can come to us and open up about their illnesses. It is extremely detrimental to let those suffering go through it alone. We have to be less judgemental and not just disregard mental illness as the “work of the devil”. We have to learn to encourage them to seek medical help.
  3. We have to speak up & generate awareness. We all have a voice; therefore, we must speak up. Speaking up does not have to mean doing something extra-ordinary. In fact, simple things like speaking openly to friends and family about mental illness, will start to diffuse the stigma attached to mental illness within black communities. So I challenge YOU to start a conversation about mental health this week. Whether it be with a friend, sibling, partner or colleague. Start talking! You never know who you could be helping by speaking up about it. You may just inspire someone who is suffering in silence to speak up!
  4. Hold hospitals and clinics accountable. In the documentary “Being Black, Going Crazy?” one of the callers on Keith Dube’s radio show mentioned his personal experience with the mental healthcare system. One point he made which really stood out to me was the fact that some mental health hospitals “section first and explain later.” This to me is highly unacceptable! I cannot even begin to imagine how much of a painful, stressful and confusing time it must be for both the inpatients and their families. So for there to be no explanation of the process or why they are being sectioned and given the treatment they are being given is extremely unfair. In light of this, I urge anyone who may be going through this kind of experience, to speak up and demand that the nurses or hospitals explain the process clearly before taking action.
  5. Finally, we have to STOP THE STIGMA in order to progress. As a community we have to remove the shame and judgements attached to the topic of mental illness. The best thing we can do to dissolve this stigma is to educate ourselves on mental health. You’ll be surprised at how much you can find out from something as simple as a google search into black mental health. We also have to learn to discuss mental illness more openly within our community in order for us to demolish the stigma and make mental health less of a taboo subject. It’s not a dirty phrase. It’s something which seriously affects many people within the black community and therefore we need to talk about it more!!

A quote that reminds me to always try to be understanding and to speak up on issues regardless of whether they affect me or not, is…

“The greatest cruelty is our causal blindness to the despair of others”

We cannot continue to turn a blind eye toward our brothers and sisters who suffer with mental illnesses.

Lastly, to anyone who may be suffering with depression, anxiety or any other serious mental illnesses, PLEASE do not suffer in silence. Please try and seek professional help, or if that is too much, then start by opening up to friend or family member. But whatever you do, please do not suffer in silence. I promise you that once you find the courage to speak up, things can only get better.

If you or anyone you know is suffering with a mental illness and need someone to speak to please contact your local GP who, according to the NHS website , will be more than happy to help. 

Alternatively, you can contact your local MIND Charity branch, and speak to them. They are there to help you. 

Art Work from:

Artist: Azarra Amoy – @Thisisazarra 

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