Article on Shame in Mental Health In the African Community

Article on Shame in Mental Health In the African Community

Fighting the Stigma Associated With Mental Illness in the African-American Community

There is nothing more distressing than suffering silently from a mental illness, when your own mind revolts against you, but you’re unable to stand up to this revolt as strongly as you should. The reasons could be many such as a denial of the problem or lack of awareness and help, but the most prevalent reason for people, especially in African community, not coming out to get help for their mental illness is the shame that’s attached to mental health care. Traditionally, there has been a reluctance in the black community when it comes to openly discuss mental health, the fear of judgment is a principal factor.

An Overview of Mental Health and African-American Community

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Services, the vulnerability of African-Americans to serious psychological mental disorders, such as major depression, suicide, PTSD, and anxiety, is 20% more as compared to the non-Hispanic whites.

We all know that a healthy life stems from a healthy mind and body. If there is no shame in getting proper physical health care, then why does something like social stigma factor in when it comes to mental health care? Why does the African community not feel comfortable in openly addressing mental health issues?

The cultural values and experiences that are unique to the African community may be proving to be a hindrance in acknowledging mental disorders. The display of a strong and tough persona is valued, which leaves little room for showing any sort of vulnerability. Have a problem? Suck it up and keep going like it never happened.

Mental health problems are viewed as signs of weakness, rather than a genuine physiological problem that needs to be dealt with. Instead of encouraging getting help from professionals, people in the community are expected to find help in family support and religious faith. And while these things are important in overcoming mental illness, they are in no way a substitute for real medical help.

There’s a certain apprehension that prevails in a black person suffering from a mental health problem, about what the fellow community members would think if he/she were to come out in the open about his/her mental illness. This person feels scared of the ridicule and trivializing that will most likely follow, while also feeling that openly admitting the problem might bring embarrassment to the entire family, for not being able to resolve the problem within the scope of family. Such a negative attitude towards mental health care makes it very difficult for this person to get the professional help needed.

5 Reasons Why Shame in Getting Mental Health Care Needs to Go

  1. The quality of life is vastly improved when one receives proper medical treatment for their mental illness. This reflects in their inner thoughts, personal relationships and physical health.

  1. Ignoring a mental problem is not a solution, it only exacerbates the problem. Mental illnesses don’t disappear magically. They need the investment of time, willingness and professional help.

  1. A healthy mind is needed to move ahead in life, career and relationships and achieve the true potential that one is capable of.

  1. Coping and recovering from most of the mental health problems is feasible. There is no point in living with a problem that has a solution.

  1. To enjoy the life like it’s meant to be enjoyed, with a free, light and relaxed mind.

5 Steps to Overcoming the Feeling of Shame in Seeking Help

  1. The first step is to make peace with yourself and feel confident about getting professional help. You should understand that getting help for a mental disorder is just as important as getting help for a physical health problem like diabetes or cancer.

  1. Sow the feelings of empowerment when you think about getting treatment. Think of it as a way of improving your life for real.

  1. Don’t try to hide the fact that you’re getting help from your near and dear ones. It’s okay if you don’t want to publicize it much, but be honest whenever asked about it.

  1. Try connecting with people who may be going through the same struggle as you, either through online or offline support communities.

  1. Don’t define your identity with your mental disorder, don’t let it take away from the whole person that you are.

3 comments on “Article on Shame in Mental Health In the African Community

  1. Angie scott says:

    Great read Zee Zee. Wishing you much success in this new venture.

  2. Lamrana kamara says:

    Kudos on your blog on mental illness and the African community, so many in our society are suffering in silence. Suffering from mental illnesses is hard enough but overcoming the misconceptions, stigma and shame about the disease can be even harder. Thanks for providing a space to discuss issues affecting our community and beyond.

  3. Lamrana Kamara says:

    Kudos on your blog about mental illness in the African community, so many in our society are suffering in silence from this disease. Suffering from mental disease is hard enough but overcoming the misconceptions, stigma and shame can be even harder. Thanks for creating a forum that deals with a wide variety of issues that affects our community and beyond. It is a common misconception in our culture that one doesn’t need treatment for mental illness,but that one should simply get over it.

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