Mental Health And Why The Black Community Needs To Talk About It Now

Kid Cudi, Halle Berry, Chris Brown, Mariah Carey
@chrisbrown/@mariahcarey

A study that was made public in July connected two issues that should have been linked long ago: the stress of being Black and Alzheimer's disease. The results showed that due to living more aching lives, African-Americans were more likely to develop the illness. Those harrowing traffic stops and every day micro-agressions culminated in a kind of brain overload. Slowly, your memory would be erased. 

Even our celebrities are not immune. In 2016, Kid Cudi spoke on his struggles with anti-depressant medication in his Complex cover story. The admission took the Hip Hop world by storm, removing the veil from a strand of the culture so often ignored. It's the same one that rears its head when Chris Brown's outlandish behavior culminates in the reality of his Bi-polar disorder and PTSD affecting his life. In 2014, he was ordered by a judge to stay in rehab after an episode landed him there. 

Mariah Carey's famous breakdown in 2001 has fundamentally changed her career, though nothing could lessen her legend. And Halle Berry spoke candidly on her own struggles with depression and an attempted suicide when her relationship to David Justice ended in a fury.

Nothing says I need a mental health break like a heightened risk of dementia, and the AA community is, heartbreakingly, also the ones least willing to take one. According to the Office of Minority Health, 17.2 percent of African-Americans couldn't afford health insurance in 2015. Some 29 percent also used Medicare and Medicaid. Systems where mental health offerings are slim and can entail long wait times. 

There is a stigma, long earned and weather beaten, that toughness is a central characteristic of Black life in America. That, to be twice as good, you needed to be twice as stable. So AA's have consistently turned to prayer in turbulent times. Relying on the God of our ancestors to fill the gap between our reality and the one we sought after. 

An American Psychiatric Association study on religious practice brought to bear that 85 percent of AA's consider themselves religious. That means prayer, not therapy, are often the last line of defense between stability and depression.

Nowhere is this truer than for Black women. According to the Huffington Post, Black women are one of the most under treated demographics when it comes to mental illness in America. This puts them at risk for intense episodes of mental anguish, with many going simply unnoticed in their community. Factor in high rates of poverty among AA's and the murky waters turn a bright blue: Black people need to be able to ask for help when they need it. 

Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama agrees. During better days in America she had this to say: "There should be absolutely no stigma around mental health. None. Zero. ... It's time to tell everyone who's dealing with a mental health issue that they're not alone, and that getting support and treatment isn't a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength."

Talking about mental health and seeking help has to be a priority if AA's are going to turn the tide on mental illness in their communities. Who doesn't want to have their faculties and carry memories well into old age? 

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