Black Mental Health Matters
Addressing your mental health during a crisis
Wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and wash your hands. Those precautions seem to be top of mind as we all try to stay healthy during this pandemic.
However, not much is talked about concerning mental health in this time of crisis.
And as the black population is being negatively affected by unemployment, reduced wages, and health care disparities at a higher rate than other ethnic groups–perhaps we should pay more attention to our mental well-being.
“As a black community we’re told to pray, we’re told to keep things in our house and just deal with it,” said Charnell Dortch MA, LPC, a licensed clinical therapist. She admits there is a stark difference in how the black community and the white community address mental illness.
According the Dortch, often times, white people have more resources and are willing to seek out those resources. She adds that black communities have more mental health challenges simply because we’re not getting the help.
Dortch believes there is another widespread reason for the disparity.
“I feel like it’s a negative stigma on mental health and so people don’t want to say anything because they feel embarrassed,” said Dortch.
It’s safe to say that not only are black people concerned with the coronavirus, but the recent racial discord has no doubt compounded the situation. These events are the perfect cocktail for anxiety. Unfortunately, individuals often don’t know when they’re encountering it.
Dortch breaks down some of the signs that could be linked to anxiety:
- Over planning
- Constantly pacing back and forth
- Bothered by things that didn’t bother you before
- Increased alcohol intake
- Changes in personal hygiene
Although it’s possible to attribute these occurrences to normal stress, Dortch cautions to be aware of the frequency.
“If you notice that 5-7 days out the week, you’re angry and upset or your heart is racing; those are indicators that something is wrong,” said Dortch.
Dortch also says that in some cases there can be a domino effect when it comes to mental illness. Disorders like depression and alcoholism can be passed down, particularly in the black community.
“If Big Mama was always depressed, sad and smoked cigarettes to cope but never got help, now you find that mom does the same thing,” said Dortch. She refers to it as generational curses.
Quite often, this negative trend continues because of the misconceptions black people have when considering professional help. Dortch claims some believe they will be labeled as a “crazy” person, or they’ll be locked in a psych ward. But Dortch simplifies why these falsehoods shouldn’t discourage a person from seeking help.
“If you can’t see, you go to the eye doctor. If you feel you’re unable to function in your normality, you should be seeking help through a mental health clinician. It’s part of self-care.”
As mental health becomes a challenge for many during this time, Dortch offers 5 practical tips that can help:
- Read a book; one that won’t cause any distress
- Journal (write down your feelings)
- Try a new recipe (or something you’ve been wanting to try)
- Engage with family or friends (as long as they don’t cause distress)
- Exercise (keep it simple; something you can do at home)
- Bonus: Take a break from social media
“People are only posting what they want you to see,” said Dortch. She adds that we tend to compare ourselves to others when we only see the highlights of their lives. This can often lead to stress and depression.
Dortch wants everyone to know that if you’re struggling with mental health; all is not lost.
“There are resources out here for us. Don’t be afraid to reach out because there are services that can help… in the black community.”
Mental Health resources