Mental Illness and People of Color: No Need to Suffer in Silence
Because the month of July is nationally recognized as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, I am not going to talk about marketing or public relations tips this week. Instead, I think that is it important to discuss the frequently swept-under-the-rug issue of mental illness. Bebe Moore Campbell, an African-American author and advocate, co-founded the National Alliance of Mental Illness’ Urban-Los Angeles Chapter. She personally understood the effects of mental illness and dedicated her life to destigmatizing it in communities of color. This post is dedicated to her.
Mental illness, which some consider embarrassing, unnatural or even ungodly, is a treatable, medical condition that should not be ignored. And, treatment is not always pharmaceutical in nature. In fact, healing can frequently be found in the form of increased understanding, improved diet or regular exercise. But, if after careful consideration and evaluation, medication is needed, take it. When on medication, work with your doctor to heal yourself. As a team, be sure to evaluate and recalibrate regularly.
In recent years, several celebrities and athletes publicly shared their mental-illness struggles and opened the door for public conversation. Heisman-award winning running back and former NFL player, Herschel Walker, suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID) and said in an interview with ESPN “I feel the greatest achievement of my life will be to tell the world my truth.” Walker is not alone in opening up and sharing his story. Latina actresses Salma Hayek and Eva Longario both struggled with depression. Additionally, Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone revealed her recent struggle with depression and anxiety. Mental illness does not discriminate. Yet, communities of color tend to ignore it.
Why do we keep quiet?
“Suck it up,” “walk it off” or “pray about it.” Good advice? We smile, raise families and participate in community activities, yet suffer through life when unable to freely address our mental health needs. Folks frequently dismiss mental illness as not a “real” health problem. This dismissal forces people to internalize their issues and ignore remedies, thereby creating a series of adverse effects. These effects can be tragic if ignored.
With the passing of Lee Thompson Young from the hit television show Rizzoli & Isles, Titi Branch of the popular, hair-care company, Miss Jessie’s and talent agent, Eury Davis to suicide, it is clear that we need to openly and freely engage in conversations about mental health and mental illness. Talk with family members, friends or loved ones about your mental troubles.
Much of our silence stems around cultural norms and lack of healthcare.
Did you know?
- Latinos have the highest uninsured rate in the US. 50% of foreign-born Latinos do not have insurance.
- 19% of African Americans do not have insurance – according to the 2012 US Census.
- South Asians who migrate from their home countries experience high levels of depression and other related mental health issues.
- African Americans shy away from mental health services due to distrust, misdiagnosis and the lack of healthcare professionals that look like them.
How can business owners improve their organizations’ mental health?
- Create and encourage wellness programs into the corporate culture.
- Share culturally relevant messages about mental health with teams.
- Approve and encourage mental health days.
- Provide employees with confidential and professionally-led mental health sessions.
We should all engage in mental health discussions. Establish a safe, honest and understanding environment and then discuss mental illness. Watch your words and be mindful of their consequences.
“It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.” – Bebe More Campbell
Cheryl McCants – Your Marketing Mama – firstname.lastname@example.org