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Unveiling the Elephant in the Room

Masked by fear of the unknown, mental health in the Black community has been the elephant in the room through many generations. As we think back, many of us may recall a family member or close friend who may have exhibited abnormal behavior, disruptive outbursts, disturbed thinking and aggression. Some may even have had diagnosis of psychosis, hallucinations, schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety, or major depression. Oftentimes in the Black community, we dismiss mental illness due to an overwhelming fear of being stigmatized. You may recall hearing, “what goes on in this house, stays in this house”, “don’t go around telling my business”, or even “that’s just how he/she is.” As common as some of these misconceptions may be, the truth is, mental illness is real and it doesn’t go away. Ignoring the signs of mental illness without seeking help only makes matters worse. It may become frustrating to discover that the challenges resurface wherever you go and you continue to have the same issues time and time again. Eventually, the symptoms may manifest and begin to interfere with daily functioning, relationships, and maintaining employment.

When someone is beset with mental illness, their whole being may be affected. It may become very disturbing for the individual as well as loved ones as you may lash out or isolate yourself. You do not have to continue to live your life in despair. The good news is there is help available. Overcoming the fear of the unknown and breaking the chains of stigma is the first step in freeing yourself and propelling towards mental well-being.

Facing your fears about mental illness may at first seem confusing and you may even think that others are against you. Whether you talk to a trusted family member or friend, or a professional, you do not have to face it alone. In order to obtain a better quality of life, you will need support in exploring the issue and practicing healthy coping skills. As you move into this new chapter of your life, do not be discouraged when you realize that your mental well-being doesn’t happen overnight. Be advised that it takes work and it will take time.

Generally speaking, it is not a common practice for members of the Black community to seek professional help at the first sign of mental illness. We tend to dismiss the issue, use extensive discipline, or resort to the Church for assistance. During these grim times of the pandemic, many have even self-medicated or committed to substance abuse. There are support groups and licensed professionals who are willing to help. Speaking with a Black professional who specializes in your area of concern may offer you more comfort in your journey.

Unveiling the elephant in the room and taking action will call for many adjustments to be made on your behalf. It begins with you, but do not be afraid of the challenge.

You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to be a better you.

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