University brings attention to the importance of Black mental health
Caitlyn O’Halloran – Contributor
Mental health has been a topic of conversation for years. With February being Black History Month, SCSU’s Counseling Program wanted to bring awareness to Black Mental Health.
“This isn’t just a problem that’s been happening today in 2021 or 2020, this is generational, this is over a long period of time,” said graduate intern Kiana Smith in regard to the stigmas in the Black Community when seeking out Mental Health Services.
“When you’re talking about the statistics, you also have to remember that Blacks in America make up roughly around 13-15 million,” said Coordinator of Multicultural Programming in Outreach and Student Counseling Services Randolph Brooks. “So, when we’re seeing a number over seven million, we’re talking about nearly half or somewhere close to half of Blacks and African Americans in the U.S. have reported some sort of mental health symptoms.”
In a 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health provided by Mental Health America, 16 percent or 4.8 million Black and African American people have said they have a mental illness and 22.4 percent or 1.1 million of those people stated that they have a severe mental illness.
Throughout the event, Smith played two TED Talk videos where two Black people discuss the importance of recognizing Black Mental Health.
“When you look at me, what do you see?” said one of the TED Talk speakers, Phillip J. Rountree. “Now I’m gonna go through some of the things I typically hear. Now to the very astute, I usually get ‘I’m black, I’m bearded and I’m strong,’” said Rountree.
“See, what I don’t hear ‘Phil, you look like someone that lives with depression and anxiety. Phil, you look like someone who was suicidal for 15 years, every day, five to six times a day. They don’t say Phil, you look like somebody who was driving on Interstate 95 wanting to crash your car to end your life.”
In the other TED Talk, Mental Health Therapist Chante Meadows discussed the importance for Black community to be able to discuss their mental health, the difference between mental health and mental illness, and why the Black community shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.
“Some of the things I think about are like people not having that cultural awareness to understand that a lot of the times, when Black people have a mental health condition or they’re experiencing symptoms, or they’re just having a problem in life, a lot of times there is an undercurrent of systemic racism that’s part of the story,” said graduate intern Rachel Ellis.
The mental health stigma that is faced by those in Black communities has recently been backtracked to when slavery occurred, according to Harvard Medical School affiliate, McLean. In the article, it states that during that time, it was commonly believed that slaves were not sophisticated enough to have depression, anxiety or any other type of mental health issue.
In recent times, there have been many efforts being made to bring more attention to the stigma surrounding the issue of Black mental health, to educate people about the specific challenges the Black community faces with mental illness and to be more conscious of our actions and attitudes about the bias that there is and negative assumptions that follow this issue.
“When we’re thinking about mistrust when it comes to our wellness, we’re definitely looking at the historical context of how life has gone for Blacks in America since day one. But when you add to this stigma that’s involved to ask yourself the question ‘why is it you feel like you can’t talk about what’s going on?’ Why is it that you feel like you can’t say ‘I am in pain’? There’s a reason for it and that is definitely what the stigma has done to us,” said Brooks.
“With Black people and physical health vs. mental health,” said Smith, “why not see it in the same light? If you’re not hurt physically, why not seek help for being in pain mentally?