Clinical Depression in The Black Community “We Shall Overcome”
Written by: King Pynn
“Playing the blues is like having to be black twice” – B.B. King
Mental illness is still somewhat a taboo topic in the black community. We’ve always acknowledged it, everybody has that one family member that is quick to call someone “crazy” but when it comes to seeking help we are not as boisterous. Annually more than 41,000 people die by suicide in the United States. As stated by the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health issues than other demographics. Common mental health disorders among Black Americans are anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, suicide and clinical depression.
It doesn’t take too long to grasp that life isn’t always going be a walk in the park. If you haven’t caught on yet, just keep on living. Like a roller-coaster life is going to have its ups, it’s going to have its downs and it’s going to keep moving even when we don’t. Therefore, it’s very important to seek help when the ride that is life becomes too much. It is not a sign of weakness and it does not mean a lack of faith, even if some people and cultures mislead you into believing this.
Given the long history of slavery, racism and oppression that African Americans have endured, many have developed a “we shall overcome”, suffer in silence mentality. This mentality was born out of fear, pride and desperation. 63 to 65 percent of Black people believe depression is a personal weakness. “Why you so blue? If our people made it through slavery, we can make it through anything .” “Girl, you better be like Tamela Mann and take it to the King.” “Man, there are people out here who have it worse than you.”
In Dr. Joy Degruys book “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome”, she explains how African Americans never recovered from the traumas of slavery. These traumas included the destruction of familiies, rape, racism and death. Post-tramatic slave syndrome is a term coined by the doctor herself, It refers to the consequences of mutigenerational oppression and racism. Dr. Degruy writes “When we look at American chattel slavery, we are not talking about a single trauma; we are talking about multiple traumas over a lifetime of generations.” In a sense Black people have become desensatized to sufferring and this makes it harder for us to recognize cries for help.
Many of us reduce depression to simply having “The Blues”. This primarily stems form our lack of understanding and information surrounding the issue. Depression is not something one can just snap out of. Sometimes depression is a chronic illness that occurs even when things are going good. Education and awerness is the key to getting rid of the stigma surrounding mental illness.
So many people have slipped through the cracks simply because they didn’t know where to look for help when they needed it. This is why its so important for everybody to be informed about how to recognize and handle mental illnesses. A crisis may pop up in places and people you’d never expect. It could be a family member, friend, co worker, neighbor, stranger or you. When your body is sick you go to the doctor to get help right? Why wouldn’t you do the same when your mind is sick? Especially when you consider the fact that the body is nothing without a healthy mind.
Here is some helpful information in case of emergencies.
Mobile Crisis Team: 704-566-3410
Suicide Prevention: 800-273-8255