Taboo to You
It seems we hear about mental illness all the time-whether it be commercials, via a friend, on social media, or in the news. As someone who has suffered from my own battle with mental illness for quite some time I am SO glad to see this. This is progress. The reason most people don’t get help is because it’s still so fucking taboo. I know I STILL look both ways and duck into my little back-ally abortion clinic-y therapist’s office every Monday at 6:30 PM like I am breaking the fucking law. Why?? Why don’t they have a huge sign advertising, “Mental Health! Mental HEALTH! Everyone come and get your MENTAL HEALTH!!” Okay, maybe not that intense, but you get the picture.
It is treated as something we should be ashamed of to this very day. In this day and age where you can get famous from a sex tape. In this day and age where it’s trendy to have an affair on your reality TV show. In this day and age where we are so advanced technologically that we are sending drones to Mars, driving electric cars, and utilizing AI..we’re still ashamed of taking care of our mental health. There must be something “wrong” with that girl. She wears all black and she goes to…*hushed whisper*..THERAPY!!
Mental Illness and Me
If it weren’t for therapy I. Would. Be. Dead. End of story. I have a great appreciation for the tools that allowed me to get help. I have a great appreciation for not giving a fuck as well. I knew, living in a town of 2,000 people, that everyone and their mother and their cat would know about me going to a rehab facility/psych ward. I also didn’t give a FUCK. I knew what I needed to do to get myself freed from the solid grip Oxycodone had had on me for 3-4 years. I knew what I needed to do to get back to being the motivated, fun, outgoing, ambitious person I used to be. I knew what I had to do to like the person I saw in the mirror once more. All of this involved ME. Not “them”. Not having parents to answer to probably aided in my attitude towards this. I can imagine, if my father were still alive, explaining to him how I managed to develop a $400/week habit and was checking into a psych ward-LOL. Now, if I were part of a predominantly black community, and had black parents, grandparents and siblings to answer to….would I have still gotten help?
Black on Black
The answer is a resounding NO. Mental illness is an unaccepted concept in the black community. Some things I have heard are, “Snap out of it,” “When I was your age we….” “Quit whining,” “You’re BLACK. We ain’t got time for this *hit.” My favorite is the reference to back in whoever’s day. Things are a lot different than they were in the 60’s Gramma Gertrude. A. Lot. Different.
I invite you to look into these subjects on your own time. It goes into some pretty disturbing territory and is a surprise to a lot of people who have never dealt with the systemic racism in this country. Here are some statistics detailing the frightening state of the black community in comparison to the white community:
|No. of blacks imprisoned (2016): 489,900 (Gremlich, 2019) 60%||No. of whites imprisoned (2016): 439,800|
|Homeless blacks (2017): 52.1 per 1,000; 33% of prison population (NAEH, 2017)||Homeless whites: 10.4 per 1,000; 10% of prison population.|
|Life expectancy-black women: 78.1 years||Life expectancy-white women: 81. 2 years|
|College degree: 335, 994 (Tate, 2019)||College degree: 1,631,850|
|Blacks on anti-depressants: 14.6% lower than …….————>>>>>>||Whites on anti-depressants|
|Suicide- White men are actually 2.5 times more likely to die by this cause||
See a little difference?
So, why the hell am I talking about degrees and prisons? Well, because it is a fairly well-known fact that those in our society who are educated are much less likely to suffer from chemical imbalances, and more likely to seek help and deal with said imbalances healthily and efficiently.
Surprisingly, the gap between blacks and whites in prison is narrowing. The line is actually HALF as wide as it was in 2009; an actual 17% decrease (Gremlich, 2019).That still doesn’t fix the injustices found in the “justice” system and the disproportionate amount of African Americans that get profiled by cops, sentenced to harsher sentences for similar or the same crimes, etc. We still account for a whopping SIXTY percent of the prison population. On the other hand, the rates of homelessness in communities of color is NOT improving over time, with Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities having the highest rates, at almost 94 per 10,000 people (compared to 52 per ten-thousand blacks and TEN per ten-thousand whites).
The life expectancy has remained unchanged for black women at 78.1 years, while it has decreased for white women-81.2 years-due in part to the opiate crisis. When it comes to college degrees, white and Asian students rank 20% higher among the rate of college graduates.
Despite some undeniable progress that has been made in recent years, racism continues to have a viable impact on the overall mental health of Black Americans. Negative stereotypes and attitudes, along with instances of rejection have decreased, but still occur. Consequences of such have been negative, as well. Historical and contemporary instances of negative treatment have led to mistrust of authorities, who typically do not have our best interest in mind. Black Americans are TWENTY percent more likely to report severe psychological distress than White Americans (MHA, 2019).
The number one recorded cause of death for African-American males between the ages of 15 and 34 is homicide. But are these deaths often characterized by law enforcement, coroners and family as accidental or homicidal when, in fact, the individual wanted or expected to die? African-American masculinity is arguably more confined than white masculinity. African-American boys and men are even more likely to be labeled “weak” and “not a real man” when in need of help. In the “code of the street”, described by sociologist Elijah Anderson, African-American boys and men must learn to hide weakness and appear strong and resilient (MHA, 2019).
Fix this Shit!!
Most people look at statistics and want to know what can be done to help the situation at hand-whether it involves them or not. If you’re tired of being part of the problem, there are some things you can do.
- Contribute your time: MHA, NAMI, ‘The Bipolar Writer’ on WP, ‘The Marie Post’ on WP, see what you can do in your community!
- Contribute your dollar to: MHA, NAMI, NAACP, ‘The Bipolar Writer’ on WP, ‘The Safe Place’-an App for Black America’s Mental Health, local organizations.
- LISTEN. If someone is going through a tough time….be there. Just offer a shoulder to cry on. That means more than you often know.
To elaborate on No. 3, when I was about to check myself into a psych ward I texted a few of my best friends. Not for sympathy. Not for someone to come visit me. Just for a shoulder. An ear. That was really the best thing they could do for me at that time. Listen and not judge. This is, surprisingly, harder than it sounds. My [former] best friend in the entire world (2nd best, actually, to my ‘Eggo’ Magan) hadn’t been speaking to me much. I didn’t take it personal-we’re adults; we’re busy! Well, it got to where it was extremely bothersome. The day before I checked in I texted her and spilled the beans. I told her everything. Then I asked for her support in the most sincere of ways-I truly did just want to know she was on my side.
Well…her response has played through my mind every day for the past 127 days of sobriety. “….I’ve known you were on drugs for a long time, Monica. Honestly, your energy is just fucking me up-I can’t even be around you. When you get better call me.”
Ouch. That stung. Not only did it sting, but it let me know where I stood. Regardless of me being there for every self-inflicted wound she’d ever had, answered my phone at any hour day or night, gone on adventure after adventure with her-hiking, parties, Dallas, Little Rock, Fayetteville- and, most importantly…listened. I was always there to listen. I would never dream of making her feel bad about something, especially when she was taking the necessary steps to fix it.
I learned who my true friends were in October of 2018.
Celebs on Celexa
They’re rich. They’re famous. They’re breathtakingly beautiful. They eat a cracker a day and don’t shit. They’re…celebrities. * gasp * Something so amazingly talented and gorgeous couldn’t possibly be unhappy, right? Wrong.
For reasons unknown, average people consider celebrities to be ‘holier than thou’- they’re “above us,” virtually invincible. Indestructible. They’re so perfect! They can’t possibly be susceptible to all the negativity in the world! At the end of the day, they are still humans. They feel. They see. They experience….and they have chemical imbalances.
I JUST explained to someone on Facebook why the following statement is so problematic:
“Who needs ‘medicine’ and corporate (witch) doctors when you have organic food, exercise and well water??
Put a Fork in Me..
What is your opinion on the topics discussed? How do you think these “anti-medication” views can be harmful? I would love to hear questions and comments from readers. If you have any subjects you would like us to approach for the next blog post, please let me know.
Thank you for reading my first post as contributing author. I got out of rehab in October and immediately began to write. It’s something I used to love, until my father passed away in 2003. I stopped everything that was important to me at that point. Funny how life comes full circle-writing has, without a doubt, saved my life. Whether two people or two thousand people read my work, I vow to never put the pen down again.
I appreciate all of you!
FactTank. Pew Research Center. Gramlich, John, January 21, 2018. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact- tank/2018/01/12/shrinking-gap-between- number-of-blacks-and-whites-in-prison/
Just the Albrights, 2019. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/112962005/posts/199
Mental Health America. MHA. Pikes Peak SEO, 2019. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/programs
Mental Health First Aid.(MHFA) -‘The Safe Place‘ 2019. https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/external/2018/03/mental-health-app-black- community/
Tate, Emily. 2019. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/04/26/collegecompletion-rates-vary- race-and-ethnicity-report-finds