Mental Health Issues in the Black American Community

Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman” was my banner song during the last year of my psychiatric residency training. She gave me a sound track that became part of my identity. Watching the Grammy Awards Night was tremendously painful; we lost an American Treasure…a Black American Treasure

As a Black American myself, we should learn and recognize that taking care of ourselves is very important. It is clear that Whitney Houston suffered from mental health issues that sadly most people ignore.

Why? Because…Mental health treatment is a taboo subject to Black Americans because of fear and misunderstanding. No one would like to admit that their family member or family is seeking psychiatric treatment(s).

Instead of seeking professional mental healthcare, Black Americans often rely on religious institutions, family members, or self diagnosis. This prevents the community as a whole from accessing available programs and treatments.

I am not saying that it is wrong to seek spiritual help, but when mental health issues are involved, this should be in conjunction with psychiatric and psychosomatic medications to recover from the problem. It is not a sin to use drugs, to feel suicidal, to not sleep, to not take care of your family, and to behave improperly. These are mental issues that are highly treatable and can be rapidly treated and resolved. 

A recent published poll revealed Black Americans in response to emergency situations, call a family member first rather than 911. These kinds of health care decisions and fears of healthcare professionals keep us from being a vibrant and healthy community.

Gone is our collective history of sacrifice, adversity, and talent. We must learn how to take care of ourselves and not to just run to a preacher who might be less than helpful. We must use all available resources including mental health services, primary medical care, and social institutions like our churches and faith based groups. 
Culturally competent minority physicians can be hard to find, but we are here. Word of mouth and Google searches are a good start. Get help for your mental health issues if you need one and know that we can take care of our own.
Rest in peace…Whitney. 

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