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The Truth About Overcoming Mental Illness in the Black Community

mental illnessBy Tamiya King

Studies reveal that 2.3 million people in the United States have bipolar disorder, which is also referred to as manic-depressive disease.  Further scientific studies confirm that African Americans develop bipolar disorder at the same rate as Americans of other races. However, Black Americans are much less likely to seek treatment, or a proper diagnosis, for their illness.

There are several reasons that Black people are not so quick to get medical treatment for bipolar disorder. After all, the Black community possesses a general distrust for health care professionals, since African Americans are more likely to be institutionalized for mental health issues. Many of these individuals are sent to mental health facilities, when medication and lifestyle adjustments could serve as effective treatment for their bipolar disorder. African Americans are also less likely to have financial access to quality medical care, and are often made to feel that being institutionalized is the only viable option.

It is no surprise that African Americans have a strong spiritual background, and have long turned to church and Christianity as a way to cope with mental distress. It is common for Black Americans to attend church more often, talk to a religious leader or share their concerns with a fellow Christian as a way to deal with emotional issues. While this can provide relief in some aspects, bipolar disorder is a serious disease and should be treated by a professional, even while the patient maintains a spiritual practice.

Schizophrenia is another mental disorder that is more common in the Black community than many people realize. However, a Medscape article suggests that the condition may be over-diagnosed in African Americans. This is largely due to the fact that Black people’s methods of expression are often misunderstood by society at large. The article also stated that many Black people who receive psychiatric treatment are not fully understood by the health professionals they are working with.

Low-quality care, which often begins at diagnosis, as well as a delay in diagnosis and treatment are also factors that affect schizophrenia treatment for Black Americans.

When it comes to mental disorders, there is still a stigma plaguing the Black community that suggests that mental illness is a weakness. In general, African Americans are expected to simply “be strong” and ignore their psychological ailments, and it is widely acceptable for Black people to turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with stress, frustration and anxiety—which are also symptoms of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Healthy and open discussions about mental health are still very much needed in the Black community. Members of the community must adopt the boldness and emotional balance to explain mental illness in order to expedite treatment and provide proper diagnoses for African Americans.

What people are saying

5 thoughts on “The Truth About Overcoming Mental Illness in the Black Community

  1. Black people are the most sane and mentally sound people on earth. We approach every life situation with a spiritual insight and our elders make it simple and plain. But mental illness is nothing more than suppressed trauma. Any person who is coo coo and crazy out of their mind, has had something happen to them that is too traumatizing and painful to deal with. The mind automatically blocks out things that are painful and hurt to protect the person's well being. Its a survival mechanism. Rape, molestation, sexual assault, beatings, and any kind of abuse people bury because its too painful to speak about. But that pain festers and festers till that person snaps one day and either hurts another person, themselves, or breaks from reality and retreats into their mind where everything is safe and secure. Thats mental illness. Not no chemical imbalance. Black people are more sane than anyone cause otherwise we would destroy this whole nation, from long time ago. If black people were not the most sane people in America, there wouldnt be no America. Please believe it.

  2. Harold Maio says:

    —-When it comes to mental disorders, there is still a stigma plaguing the Black community that suggests that mental illness is a weakness.

    "Stigma?" Curious word choice.

  3. Just another opportunity to pathologize black folks and capitalize off of it. Not to say there aren't black people who need help with emotional issues, but the field of psychology in and of it self is questionable as a valid science and method of helping the" mentally ill." Often times, friends and family to talk to will suffice.

  4. Thank you for this article. I've suffered from depression for a very long time, and did have to deal with that stigma and misunderstanding (and sometimes dismissal) of mental illness. If it was possible for my illness to be prayed into nonexistance, then it would be gone, because I have prayed. Only when I started on proper meds and some talk therapy did I start to get free of it. Unfortunately, I'm still made to feel guilty sometimes, as I'm treated as if I just didn't try hard enough to get well.

  5. Dell Brown says:

    I was born with this problem way back in the 60's when they had no name for it. being black it was even harder on me. I can tell to that their is no cure but to do the best you can to stay alive and try very hard to keep yourself alive by the life style you live. I also want to warn you black people don't care what's wrong with you unless they getting paid or understand you will kill them. Then they tell you put it in Gods hands. Remember what don't make you weak will only make you stronger because if you stay alive your energy will start to run out and your wisdom will kick in. The stress on your brain will not change but you have to keep fighting your thoughts don't take all them meds find means to always be your own manger of your body and mind. You are your own best doctor. Mental health is a joke trust no one. watch out for people who say Black people are the most sane and mentally sound people on earth mental illness is nothing more than suppressed trauma. People who think like that speak in general terms and get killed by people like us because they don't feel other people's suffering. You can find dumb mother fuckers anywhere.

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