May is mental health awareness month. In the United States, there has been a large push for the improvement of physical health and well-being, but mental health is often overlooked. There is a negative stigma about mental health in the African American community. Most of the members in our community have undiagnosed mental illnesses such as anxiety, and depression. I believe the negative stigma comes from standards that were put in place by our culture.
for the black child
Starting from a young age, many black children are taught to suppress their emotions and feelings due to being viewed as disrespectful by an adult or inferior by their classmates. A child who expresses how they feel about a situation will often be told that they are “talking back.” Black children are commonly told to be “strong,” meaning that any sign of unpleasant emotion will be seen as weak. I remember being told “don’t let them see you cry”, and that is something that remains with me til this day. I never questioned it. I never asked: what’s wrong with crying? We were often discouraged from crying and complaining, and told to pray. I am not opposed to prayer, because it does work. But you can’t always pray away depression, anxiety, and low self esteem.
for the black woman
At one point or another, every black woman has found herself holding her tongue, rather than expressing her beliefs. In a society where an opinionated woman of color is often feared, her statements can be perceived as angry, rude, or violent. Which could cause her to be viewed as the stereotypical “angry black woman.” But if she withholds her statements for too long then, her silence will be perceived as having an attitude. Anytime we speak an indifference to anyone else there’s a risk of being labeled an “ABW.” Which leads to my question: Why must we be identified as the “angry black woman” rather than being described as a black woman who happened to be angry?
So, we remain silent because black women are expected to be strong individuals who can hold everything together. And being “strong” means you’re not allowed to struggle, right? As if the combination of being both black and a woman, suddenly means you don’t battle with insecurity and anxiety.
for the black man
I don’t have any experience with this topic, I can only speak on what I’ve witnessed. It is common for a black man to refrain from expressing his emotions. He would rather appear to be emotionless, than be vulnerable around his peers. I believe this is rooted from the masculinity standards in our culture that are instilled within them as children. The phrase “man up” is used too often and leaves the long lasting impression, that being emotional is a flaw. Instead of seeking professional help such as, therapy and counseling, it is easier to deny that there is an underlying condition. There is a mistrust of doctors due to the often misdiagnosis of African American conditions. Men tend to suffer in silence, causing suicide to be the 3rd leading cause of death in black males.
The Mask You Live In Video
National Alliance on Mental Health Helpline : 800 – 950 – NAMI
National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800 – 273 – 8255
Self-harm Textline: Text CONNECT to 741741
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