Hey Black, Don’t Crack! Mental Health Awareness
Mental Health Awareness
As we close out the month of May, I wanted to take this time to just write a little bit about mental illness in the black community. At the age of 22, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and anxiety all in one. I had some traumatic things I encountered from a young age to adolescent. A lot of my problems I covered up in high school through sports and working. I have been told by many people that I was a mean and bitter teenager. I had a lot of issues and anger built up inside of me. By the age of 22 I had been through so much I didn’t talk about or share, I had attempted suicide and found myself in a behavioral health facility in Ft. Wayne for two days. A lot of my issues were due to my own choices. The root of the choices I made, anger, and the mental anguish I dealt with stemmed from me being sexually abused more than once, feeling like my father abandoned me because we didn’t spend time together anymore, and getting pregnant at 14 years old making the choice to have an abortion. (May I add the choice was made due to lack of knowledge of what I was actually doing) So between keeping those things an entire secret, I was completely ashamed. It took me about 5 years post recovery to even become comfortable talking about some things. To date, I am still not able to talk in detail about my sexual molestation, unless I am helping someone else through us relating, or bringing awareness to my own children. This month I was able to work with someone personally that had encountered sexual abuse. It was overwhelming, but liberating to share my story, to inspire them.
Being a black woman, I was raised to be strong and endure. I grew up hearing from many people of influence in our culture that we don’t tell our business. We should not snitch, and we keep everything to ourselves. We endure and we deal with life. I was always told that God will work it out. Pray about it and things will get better. And while a lot of this has its truth to it, in believing these things, I found myself ready to end my life and it had barely gotten started. I was ready to check out with A LOT of baggage.Part of my follow up from the behavioral health facility included that I meet with a counselor. It wasn’t until I met with that counselor (which happened to be another black woman) that I realized that mental health issues are common. It was not just a white thing, or a crazy person thing. It’s a thing that happened (and is STILL happening) to black people. It is in fact often over looked, and there are many African Americans that are out there undiagnosed. African Americans, seems to experience more severe forms, due to un met needs and obstacles. 1 and 5 people are affected by mental illness. 63 percent of African Americans believe that depression is a personal weakness. Barriers for treatment are denial, guilt, embarrassment and shame.
Since becoming a business coach, author, and sharing a portion of my story in my book “Don’t Wish, WORK”, I have found there are lots of others in leadership positions that are not strangers to mental illness. They have suffered in their past or currently battling. Some are dying internally and covering up externally with hopes of overcoming but won’t acknowledge that they need the help. Many African Americans like me rely on faith and spirituality to help them with their recovery process. If it is an important part of your life, it can be tremendously beneficial. The key is to be a part of a faith based community that provides the support and resources needed both spiritually and professionally. I definitely believe that counseling sessions with a trained professional, along with total physical and spiritual wellness all aid in renewing the mindset to overcome. My first counseling session ever was a very long yet informative session. The counselor reassured me that I was not “crazy’ but I was braver than what I thought, because I took the step to come and visit her. It’s been about 13 years since my suicide attempt. I still have battles with anxiety from time, but I don’t take any medications and I know what I need to do prevent an attack. Too often we face these issues without help. Steps are made to be an overcomer without enough healing for recovery, and counseling is most avoided.
Recovery is possible for any mental health issue. That does not mean that the symptoms will go away, they just become easier to conquer. For me, recovery is in fact is having achieved a greater capacity for things like, work, love, integrity, compassion, and wisdom. One thing for sure I am always able to progress. I may not be perfect but I don’t stop. I may move at my own pace, but I am able to always move forward.
So of course I have to end this blog post encouraging anyone who may be depressed, having suicidal thoughts, suffering from post-partum depression, stress, attention deficit hypertension disorder, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder just to name a few. If you are feeling in any way like you don’t matter or like you are not supposed to be here please book you a session with a professional therapist. Do not be ashamed, or worried. In encouraging you and sharing my battles I don’t want to seem cliché, but I want you be your best self at capacity. Get the help that you need to overcome the battle in your mind. Below are a few resources if you need to schedule an appointment. I hope this blessed you. Feel free to share and comment below.
National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Phone Number: 800-442-HOPE (4673)