‘Become your stronger you:’ Mental Illness in the Black Community

Let’s talk mental health in the black community. Why is this a stigma? Who decided that it was taboo to speak about this topic? When are we going to stop the crab in a barrel mentality? 

All of my life I have known that I have issues with low self-esteem. I have always felt unwanted, not good enough, and unattractive. Holding onto these things have drastically changed the quality of life that I have lived. And the crazy thing is no one ever told me not to speak about it, it is just one of those unwritten rules that we live by. 

In April of last year I decided that in order to live the life that I truly deserve that I needed help. Yes, black people, it is okay to ask for help! 

Why is this the case though? We, as far back as slavery I’m sure, have been fed the notion that you have to be the strongest in every aspect of life to succeed. We have also believed that mental illnesses are a sign of weakness. When you add that to the age-old black proverb of “what happens in this house stays in this house” then you have a cocktail made perfectly for failure in our communities. 

Let’s address these things, head-on shall we? 

It’s simple logic, every person can’t be the strongest. With that being said, why hasn’t it come down to the last man standing? It hasn’t because that mentality is flawed. Instead of trying to be THE strongest, we must all try to be OUR strongest. Changing that thought process will release so much negative and unnecessary energy that the ability to enjoy life will increase instantly.

Next is the fallacy that mental illness is a sign of weakness. The truth of the matter is that mental illness isn’t the weakness, it is the lack of knowledge of it that is our weakness. If we step up and face our issues then we can release the power it has over our lives. Figuring out what triggers we have, and avoiding those will limit the time that we spend fighting. 

Finally, the biggest hindrance to my people. “What happens in this house, stays in this house.” This is so damaging to our peace and wellbeing. there are so many negatives that can have a safe harbor in our community because of this but we are going to stick to mental illness. If you do not speak to anyone about it, it will continue to have a strong hold on you. Big mamma or granny are not equipped to handle the severity of most of these issues, so they fester and develop and become unmanageable. 

So please people, see someone. Talk it out. Be brave and step outside of the accepted social norms of our community. Become your stronger you.

Torrey Brown is a loving husband, father, and son, and also an outspoken champion for the black cause and all social injustices.

Any views or opinions expressed in “Tuesdays with Torrey” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Watershed Voice staff or its board of directors.