How often is it that we’ve heard the words from a friend or family member that says, ‘Don’t cry’, ‘Be strong’ or ‘Suck it up’? Why are we told this? Are we not supposed to cry when we are hurting? Is it mandatory that we always show a tough exterior, filled with no emotion? How did we arrive to this misconception that African American people are not supposed to feel pain?
Author, Terrie Williams has made it her mission to raise awareness and address the issues surrounding the pain, mental and emotional health of African American people. She speaks openly throughout America about her personal experiences with depression and the impact of depression within the African American community.
“Sadly, most in the African-American community don’t even know what clinical depression is – what it looks like, sounds like or feels like,” says Terrie in her opinion piece from CNN. In her book entitled, Black Pain; It Just Looks like We’re Not Hurting, she identifies overeating, alcohol and drug abuse, violence and crime as the root of emotional pain. Terrie feels by addressing the issue of depression through conversation. many will find they are not alone. Terrie is also Founder and President of The Stay Strong Foundation; it’s primary mission is to educate and inspire using myriad unique and innovative programs designed to transform lives.
Mental Health America says, “Due to cultural backgrounds, depression may be exhibited differently among African Americans.” There are barriers and walls that have yet to be overcome; these barriers can be something as simple as telling a loved one “Don’t cry”, when the reality is they need to ‘let it out’.
“To help decide if you—or someone you care about—needs an evaluation for clinical depression, review the following list of symptoms. If you experience five or more for longer than two weeks, if you feel suicidal, or if the symptoms interfere with your daily routine, see your doctor…” says Mental Health America; the symptoms include:
• A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, or excessive crying
• Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain
• Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain
• Irritability, restlessness
• Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
• Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning waking
• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
• Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
On a more encouraging note, Mental Health America says, “Like other illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes, clinical depression is treatable with the help of a health care professional. In fact, over 80 percent of people with depression can be treated successfully.” There’s hope!
Mental Health America (2012), Depression and African Americans, Retrieved from Mental Health America website: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/index.cfm?objectid=C7DF94D0-1372-4D20-C8464F9E181D55D8
Williams, Terrie (February 2012), Depression Does Not Discriminate, Retrieved from CNN website: http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/03/opinion-terrie-m-williams-depression-does-not-discriminate/