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September 04, 2018 - Image 22

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily

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The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com
6C— Fall 2018

Mental illness is something
hardly talked about in our
country.
Though
mental
illnesses
like
depression,
anxiety, and bipolar disorder
are extremely common and
are extremely pressing issues,
for some reason, discussion
of them always seems to get
swept under the rug. Mental
illness plays a role in as high as
90 percent of suicides amongst
some
professionals,
though
this statistic is often times
debated, there is no denying
that mental health directly
correlates to mortality rates.
These studies are extremely
concerning, considering the
increasing suicide rates in our
nation. Mental health should
be something we are always
talking about — we shouldn’t
have to wait until the latest
suicide, whether it be someone
you know or a celebrity.
As little as mental health is
talked about in America, it’s
discussed even less among
people of color. Having a
mental illness is stigmatized
in communities of color, as
something that makes you
weak, something you should
be ashamed of and should
not talk about. Even though
the reality of the world is
that a lot of times, people of
color are more likely to have
mental health issues, probably
because
the
discrimination
and oppression they face on
a daily basis have adverse
effects on their mentality. For
example,
African
American
adults are 20 percent more
likely to experience mental
health issues than the rest of
the population.
One
reason
why
mental
illnesses are so prevalent in

communities of color is that
self-care, something that can
really help to prevent mental
issues, is seen as a luxury and
not a necessity. In one of my
classes during the school year
that was made up solely of
students of color, we discussed
the
stigmas
associated
with self-care options such
as therapy or yoga. Many
students recounted how in
their
communities,
things
like those were described as
“things for white people,” or
luxuries versus necessities to
help your mental health. We
also discussed how in all of
our respective communities,
things like therapy were seen
as taboo and something not to
be discussed and to be swept
under the rug, that it was
embarrassing to have an issue
requiring
professional
help
and if you did you just should
not talk about it.
The
lack
of
discussion
about mental health leads to
multiple issues, as it seriously
invalidates
the
experiences
of those who do have mental
health
problems.
This
is
because it makes them feel as
if there’s something seriously
wrong with them or that
they’re inferior to the rest of
their community. In reality,
multiple
people
in
their
community
are
struggling
with the same issues but are
uncomfortable with bringing it
up because of the stigma. This
adds to the stigma because no
one talks about it, creating a
cycle.
I
know
one
of
the
subconscious reasons I have felt
othered as a Nigerian woman
and a Black woman is due to
the fact that I have depression
and anxiety. Having a mental
illness is never discussed in
the circles and communities

I’m in, both of Black people,
and of Nigerian people. People
just always talked about how
when you face struggles and
have
problems,
you
were
supposed to toughen up and
work through it, making it
seem so simple. Like all of
my problems could be solved
with easy fixes and if I was
having issues, I must be doing
something wrong.
I know from talking to
my parents and cousins that
mental illnesses “aren’t really
a thing” in Nigeria. There,
nobody talks about them and
they’re never diagnosed. I can
only imagine what it would
be like to live with a mental
illness there. Someone who
has depression would just be
considered prone to periods
of sad moods and someone
who has anxiety would just be
considered a big worrier. Your
illness would stop being just
an illness and would begin to
define who you are.
This is something that really
concerns me because people
all over the world have mental
illnesses and simply avoiding
the conversation does not make
them go away. In fact, it makes
them get worse, as it prevents
people
from
seeking
and
receiving the treatment they
need. Additionally, it prevents
people from prioritizing their
mental health, even though
it’s just as important as one’s
physical health.
It’s really frightening to
know how little people of color
and people, in general, discuss
mental health, even though it’s
2018 and the negative effects
of this lack of discussion are
multiplying. I’m just hoping it
won’t take too many more wake
up calls for people to realize
we need to do something and
fix this.

Mental health in
communities of color

EFE OSAGIE
MiC Assistant Editor

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