Before I begin, let me start with a few facts.
13.2% of the population identifies as Black or African American. That is about 45.7 million people. In 2013, 16% of 45.7 million African American people had diagnosable mental illnesses, which totals about 6.8 million people.
(Let me note that these #’s are not totally accurate and are just estimates. The #s are actually greater due to the fact that not all people report to census or have been properly diagnosed.)
Mental Illness in the African American community is a subject that I am very interested in. To me, it is very intriguing. It’s funny because at first, I myself stayed away from the topic. I never really took the time to figure out what mental health and mental illness means to me. I guess even myself has associated mental illness with a negative definition. After working in the field for 5 years, I have defined mental illness as a distorted way of thinking stemming from a lack of opportunity and a result of trauma which is expressed verbally or non-verbally in the actions of a person.
I am not one to link myself with lablels which is why I probably stayed away from “mental illness” and the labels associated with the disease.However, now I believe that it is how you define the “labels” given to you, that matters the most. Now that I have a deeper understanding of mental illness and no longer link the diagnosis with negativity, I am open to the literature that is out there regarding mental illness and how it affects African Americans and I want to educate my peers, the youth, and elders in my community so they can become more comfortable with the disease and seek treatment.
There are 5 different categories to think about when we discuss a healthy and whole person.
There is physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, and MENTAL health. If any of these 5 areas are out of balance, it messes everything up. However, I have noticed that the mental health of a person is not really focused on. Mental health in my opinion is one of the most important areas of focus along with spiritual because we become what we think about the most. That’s a fact! So
if your mind is filled with clutter and negative thoughts, it’s recognized by what you produce in the world. It is important to know the more trauma and pain you experience in your life or that you witness in the life of others, it affects your mental health.
African Americans experience more trauma and violent crimes than any other race in America. African Americans mental health is at risk and we must take a personal responsibility to save ourselves emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, and MENTALLY.
Let’s get serious about our mental health and get open about the treatment available to us!