Written by: Jordanne Nichols
In many communities of color, mental health is seen as a taboo or a controversial topic. Families push an idea of resilience and perseverance as a way to overcome mental health issues. Stigmatism towards mental health causes people of color to believe they are exempt from mental health issues as weaknesses or failures. This damaging mentality causes many people of color to ignore mental health resources and not pursue further education on the topic. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in any given year. Despite statistics similar to this, many communities fail to realize the importance and staggering effects of mental illness and mental health issues.
While many initially think of mental illness when it comes to mental health, it is more than just that one category. Mental health is a diverse topic similar to people with unique components and experiences from person to person. Mental health is caring for and acknowledging your wellbeing. Many people fail to realize the complexity of mental health due to prejudices and the fear of seeking help. In order to tackle this issue, awareness needs to be spread, and stereotypes need to be dismantled slowly.
This can seem like an impossible task to no avail, but small actions can go a long way in the journey to destigmatize mental health. Acknowledging stigmatizing language and eliminating use is one step towards a better and more inclusive future. The journey to inclusion and education on mental health starts with yourself. We all need to address our own beliefs before working towards educating others. Conversations should be had with family members, and prejudice should be recognized. Patrick W. Corrigan, PsyD, a professor at Illinois Institute of Technology considers the stigma of mental illness “is in the same category as racism and sexism…it permeates all of society and affects people at all levels.” The more we learn to understand and accept others’ differences, the more inclusive and educated our society becomes. It is important to remember that receiving mental health help is a step towards a new path, not the end of a journey. These conversations are necessary for change and for a future that provides spaces for all. Michelle Obama worked it perfectly, “We shouldn’t treat mental health conditions any differently. Instead, we should make it clear that getting help isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength.”
Armstrong, Victor. “Stigma Regarding Mental Illness among People of Color.” BH365, 8 July 2019, http://www.thenationalcouncil.org/BH365/2019/07/08/stigma-regarding-mental-illness-among-people-of-color/.
Crawford, Christine M. “How Can We Break Mental Health Barriers in Communities of Color?” How Can We Break Mental Health Barriers in Communities of Color? | McLean Hospital, 8 July 2020, http://www.mcleanhospital.org/news/how-can-we-break-mental-health-barriers-communities-color.