“Get Your Mind Right”: African Americans and Behavioral Health

Sonora Contributing Blogger — MRC (ManhoodRaceCulture)

“Rather than a proclamation of progression, you are making declarations of denial; denying yourself confrontation with the truth which can set you free.”

You are awakened from sleep with a sharp abdominal pain and have trouble returning to sleep. You may try a home remedy rather than take the time to go to seek a physician’s care at that hour but, eventually when the discomfort gets too great, you are going to the doctor. You will follow the physician’s advice and take the medication until you are feeling relief and can continue to function without the constant reminder of the discomfort.

You both agree the relationship has ended and you are now in two residences. The emotional and financial pain keeps you from sleeping soundly through the night. What’s going to happen with our children? What am I going to do financially? And even though you don’t want to admit it, your grief also includes the loss of a partner. What comes next? The emotional/psychological pain affects your eating, sleeping, working and social patterns. You’re sad, you’re angry, you cry, you reason then, you go to a place of survival inside of yourself to get through the immediate trauma. And out of that pain, you emerge from despair’s cocoon, a mutant butterfly, half fluttering, half dragging – yet moving forward.

This scenario is the same for males and females. Often between the sexes we banter about who’s pain is greater by saying “your pain ain’t like mine”; but pain is pain, and its intensity is relative to the person feeling it. Pain cannot be prioritized from one person to the other based on ones perception of disparities. Pain is pain!

So, your sleep is disrupted from the emotional pain, just like with the abdominal pain, except this time you do not go to the doctor.   You do your best to hide the aching under a mask we like to call “strength”. And, as hurting people hurt people; your pain transforms into proclamations of “never again”. Rather than a proclamation of progression, you are making declarations of denial; denying yourself confrontation with the truth which can set you free.

As a race, we have culturally denied ourselves the freedoms of emotional wellbeing. Behavioral health, simply put, is about the balance of the body and the mind; emotional and physical. The body and mind are co-dependent upon each other; one cannot function without the other. Yet, we would deprive ourselves of seeking the care of a healthcare professional for our own emotional/behavioral wellbeing based on a stigma that Black people don’t go to counseling. Historically, within the African American culture, the church has been a resource for behavioral health services. And as much as I agree that faithful prayer and meditation will keep you from medication; there are instances when life’s stressors overwhelm our body/mind, beyond its limits to cope appropriately and effectively. Seeking a spiritual advisor may not be as effective as a behavior health practitioner.

The issue for consideration I would like to impress on anyone who seeks counseling services from their house of worship is to verify the credentials of the counsel. In some churches, counselors are appointed, not because they have studied to show themselves approved but, because they have been assigned /appointed by leadership. I myself have been referred to Minister Soandso because they had been through a similar circumstance and had a testimony to share in the aftermath. Again, my faith walk has taught me that experiences and testimonies offer great support to other in like circumstances; however it does not certify me to offer coping options. Where it is known that experience is a great teacher, every graduated student is not a professor.

My suggestion to the readers is that we make behavioral/emotional health part of or annual health assessment. There are many non-profit professional services within our communities, as well as, Employee Assistance Programs, which offer confidential counseling services. Whichever route you choose to go…. GO, Get Your Mind Right!


5 thoughts on ““Get Your Mind Right”: African Americans and Behavioral Health”

  1. I think it’s more of a sense of pride when it comes to African American society. We do not like others to see our faults or weaknesses. But while we are trying to put on this mask that we are “ok”, deep down inside we are crying and feeling the emotional pain. Only when the pressure gets too much, we explode and lash out on others. I have experienced this myself and I prefer to keep my feelings inside. But I have learnt that doing so only hurts me as an individual. There are repercussions in the long run, I have to decided to express my thoughts and feelings when an issue arises, or when I’m feeling down so that I won’t drown my self into depression.

  2. We need Afrocentric based therapeutic to better assist our brothers and sisters. The resources are available ; we got to trust our brothers and sisters that are trained and certified to get there and do their thing
    as mental heath professionals. Second, i agree that we should not be afraid to discuss our mental health issues with someone.

    1. I agree totally. However supply often follows demand so the need to increase therapist will follow the need for therapist. If we are using the resources that are available then they will be offered. There is no shame in asking for an African American therapist as they can relate to our issues. That is not reverse racism, it is simply a matter of a good fit and compatibility.

  3. Issues of race and racism can cause many personal and societial problems ; I agree we need competent and multicultural mental health professionals.

  4. At the beginning of the blog I couldnt figured out what it was leading up to but as I read I gain my own interpretation. In today’s life I feel african Americans choose to not seek help if they feel they could handle it for themselves. We mostly seek for help at the last minute or when it is too late. Its like their is no trust when it comes down to the help of others.

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