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How is mental health perceived among black communities?

As a young white male, I feel I have at least some grasp on how mental health and mental illness is seen among white communities. There is a general acceptance of the importance of mental wellbeing, yet there remains a reluctance to openly discuss mental illness or conditions. 

Over the years and through many discussions with members of black communities, I am under the impression that mental wellbeing is treated differently. Some people have told me it's not taken as seriously as white communities, while some others have gone as far as to tell me it's a 'white' problem. 

My question is for black community members: how does your community perceive mental wellbeing and mental disorders? 

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6 May 2020

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Ivan Posted 8 months ago
I can kick this off... Definitely a taboo.. We always see it as a "White" problem and this of course clashes with our "Just get on with it" way of thinking. This IMO has resulted in many toxic generation behaviors in black culture with very negative outcomes. We think we must always be strong so that we are not appearing weak to anyone else. This is mentally crippling because lots of time we are not able to exhale and process what we are dealing with and this results in poorer mental health - to answer your question we see it as weak and something we can brush under the table when that is far from right!

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Lynette Posted 8 months ago
The fact that we are stronger makes us less of a priority when we do seek help. It also causes many of us to internalise mental and physical health, which has caused many of us to implode.

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Kaleke Posted 8 months ago
I don’t think this question can be easily answered. But the first thing I immediately think of is the rhetoric of ‘strong’ attached to Black women, which is subsumed into the collective mentality. Over the course of history Black people have been through horrific, shaking realities and I believe there is an expectation that we can ‘handle it’. On a day to day, I think mental health is also seen as a ‘privilege’, as if you need to have means in order to make that claim, otherwise ‘get back to work’. It is also an issue in the Black Community (as many others) because there is no simple resolve, it doesn’t conform to cultural standards and there isn’t much efficient language around it. I wouldn’t explicitly say that white communities are better at handling it, because it’s not easily/ nor should it be compared. Black people are already systematically oppressed, and mental health is seen as an another invisible burden. That being said, Black communities perpetuate the stereotype that it is for white people (because of wealth/access/privileges- they can afford mental health) /the devil - none of which are productive to responding to mental health issues. Personally, I think people are scared of it, and that begets irrational responses.

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Ivy Posted 8 months ago
I think that within our communities mental health for such a long time has been a thing that "white people say". Its something that in all honest from my experience, has not been taken seriously because as a people we have been through so much its almost as if we havent been allowed to stop. Take in whats happening. Proceed with the right steps. We have to be "strong" and work through our issues with only God and family to support. When now its like hold on a lot of us need threapy added to the mix! I think were other races were introduced to mental health by way of education, for black communities it is still quite alien and only now (thankfully) am i seeing it discussed more openly and freely. I'm almost 30.

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Saazi Posted 8 months ago
Unfortunately we know that black people are more likely than our white counterparts to experience mental health problems and on top of that more likely to be sectioned too. A lot of what contributes to it are social economic inequalities, structural racism, the criminal justice system and mental health stigma. All these combine to undermine how black people can access mental health service and how mental health services then respond to the needs of people in black communities. The stigma attached to mental health illnesses coupled with the fact that a lot of people that are likely to have these issues also are experiencing other (often deemed more urgent) challenges such as poverty, homelessness, possibly violence etc means that addressing mental health can be deprioritised. Additionally, black experience with an often prejudiced mental health system that has meant that treatments subscribed to us can be unnecessarily reliant on medication and restrictive (sectioning). This has then made us wary of reaching out. It’s a very complex issue that really needs to be addressed both systematically and also culturally to be able to better (1) respond to our needs better (2)foster trust between the mental health systems and black communities in the uk (3)address cultural norms that perpetuate mental health stigma in our communities

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Shirene Posted 8 months ago
From personal experience of seeing peoples attitudes to mental health in the black community shift to more positive way. Growing up I was aware of and I was exposed to poor mental health in my family. It was almost accepted that some people were ‘mad’ and their treatments were either heavy sedatives or taken away for long periods of time to be sectioned and I witnessed this for both men and woman, although the effects in the women in my family led to their children being deeply affected with life long issues including poor mental health in themselves. Fast forward 30 years and I’m less aware of mental health issue in younger members of my family. They are still present but the stigma is no longer there them in most cases and our attitudes have changed. The support amount the black community is inclusive and inviting and although the waiting list for NHS treatments and therapies is long, initial help ,support and signposting is widely available. However, one of the areas that I do think needs focus and attention is trauma that young people experience specifically around gangs and knife crime.

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Lynette Posted 8 months ago
I agree with Shirene that the perception of Mental health in the Black community is changing , still some work todo around Stigma and discrimination that people experience when they disclose they have mental health issues particularly Psychosis A useful way to challenge stigma and discrimination is raising our own awareness and knowledge so we start to understand mental health disorders mental health issues are part of our life journey . We also need to understand that the experience of discrimination and racism that the black community experience adversely affect mental health . I also agree we need to provide more support to young people who are experiencing Trauma through adverse experiences through gun and knife crime

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Kemoy Posted 8 months ago
My question is for black community members: how does your community perceive mental wellbeing and mental disorders? I think people are changing their way of thinking on mental health which is good, before people in the community of Moss Side seen it as a negative and didn't like the term mental health, after a lot of education, people are more clear that we all have mental health, its not a negative. I do think we need to do some work around helping people to open up more and speak .

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Mercy Posted 8 months ago
Sorry seems to be a glitch that sends a message to everyone but my question is what is actually being done? does anyone know?

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