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I’ve put this off as long as I’ve been physically able to. This has been festering for far too long. Today is the expiration date for me to be trapped. Today is day one of freedom.

For most of my life, I have suffered from low-self esteem. I can look in the mirror, not like what I see, which then becomes anxiety. I panic about being around people. If I don’t like what I see, how can anyone else? That anxiety then morphs into depression because I cannot figure out why I think so low of myself. This debilitating cycle comes and goes. It’s usually very manageable. I can have my moments, isolate, cry and then get back to life. That’s what usually happens. A few months ago, I find myself in one of the worst lows I’ve ever experienced in my adult life.

I was in my regular cycle and during my anxiety phase, life started to happen. If it could go wrong, I think it did. Finances out of whack. Kids doing the most. Stress on top of stress. I found myself in a space that was familiar and foreign at the same time. When I went down, I could not get out. If I’m being honest, I’m still not out but I’m better off than I was a few months ago.

In the middle of this cycle, I finished my second novel, got a cover and set a release date for June 30th. I was supposed to be in Atlanta that weekend to release my book with my publishing company when all hell broke loose. My finances were not what they needed to be for me to get there but I also did not have the energy to try to make it happen. On top of that, my anxiety was telling me people were the enemy. Just the thought of having to talk to people stressed me out. So I put my book on hold and didn’t go. Well…I couldn’t go.

I was just so out of it. I couldn’t sleep…I was getting about 4-5 hours of sleep a night. I lost close to 15 pounds because eating was no longer a necessity. I cried because I was tired but I couldn’t go to sleep because my brain was working overtime to convince me that I wasn’t worth the air I was breathing. I was still going to church out of  obligation but I stopped praying because God was not doing anything for me. Even though I have had depression most of my life (and I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder), I have never been suicidal. And I’m still not but…there were mornings I was mad that I woke up. I never judged people that committed suicide but I was always the person that worried about family and friends left behind. But for the first time, I understood why people did it anyway, despite having people that loved and cared about them.

Before anyone gets all bent out of shape, let me reiterate that I am not suicidal. That is not something I would do or would even consider. But I do understand being so low, so down, so out of it that not being here seems like the only acceptable solution.

Today, I am past that. Not healed but yesterday in church I was put in my place. I stopped praying for myself a long time ago because God wasn’t listening. No matter how much I prayed and praised, I was still a victim of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. But in the last few months, the empath in me made me forget about myself and had to me to focus on other people. In a nutshell, an empath is someone that is emotional to the millionth degree. I can “feel” other people’s emotions and at times, it becomes too overwhelming. Sometimes the news and social media is too much because my heart breaks in tragedy. Sometimes TV shows, movies and books can get to me, too. I remember when George died on Grey’s Anatomy. Ya’ll…that took me slam out. I mean, I cried like he was a real person. I had to take a few days to regroup. So imagine what happens to me with real life situations. Other people’s feelings on top of my own can be a recipe for disaster.

But yesterday at church, I had the epiphany that maybe, just maybe, my low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression were the thorn in my side that God refused to move for the purpose of me being able to help someone else. And in the last few months, that’s exactly what’s been happening. I didn’t realize it until yesterday. My best friend tragically suffered two losses back to back and my entire heart shattered with hers. I felt terrible then I imagined how she must have been feeling, then I felt worse. But I was still trying to be strength for her. Then, two other people, that I don’t even know personally posted something that made me reach out and I’ve been trying to be an emotional support for them. In the midst of me helping them, I realized everything I was telling them was what I needed to be telling myself. As much as I was trying to support them, I was in turn supporting myself. I am not healed but I am healing.  

I didn’t write this post for sympathy. Or for anyone to tell me it will be ok. Or for judgment. I wrote this post because I have been held hostage by this for months. I have been stuck in that moment of depression and even though I have found my way back to normalcy, I am not out of the woods. I wrote this post because we have been conditioned to ignore our mental health for fear of being labeled crazy. Or told to just pray about it. Or told to just be strong. I wrote this post out of transparency. I have some apprehension about sharing this (folks can be judgmental) but I’m tired of being a prisoner in my own mind.

If anything you read resonates with you, I urge you not to be the victim of your mind anymore. Seek help. Reach out to someone. Talk about it. It You will never heal if you keep it bottled up.

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The Attention Addiction

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Earlier today, I posted the question “what are you sacrificing to be noticed?”

It was more rhetorical than anything but I am going to answer it…

I sacrificed more than I possessed just so someone could notice me.

Now, let’s be honest…everyone likes attention. Everyone likes to be complimented. Everyone likes to be recognized whether if it’s for a new job, new hair style, new car, new house, a promotion, a raise, a diploma, a business venture, a new book…we all like for people to be proud of us. But…when you become dependent on the attention, it can become an addiction.

Having to be validated by other people is dangerous. It made me dependent on them. It made all of my actions a plot to be noticed. It made things less genuine. It made my motivation the praise I wanted to receive.

If you have read my blog before, you might remember I have written about my self-esteem struggles before. I am 38 years old and while it is better, I still have moments where my self-esteem is not as high as I need it to be. Part of that has to do with my anxiety and my depression. Some days I am ok, other days, I can’t look in the mirror or take pictures. It’s been a very long journey to getting over my need for validation.

Luckily for me, my “look at me, pay attention to me, here I am, do you see me” phase was pre social media. I didn’t have to make posts or post pictures begging for someone to notice me. But I did make sure I was seen from going to the club to going to Wal-mart for no reason to being more social than I really felt…just to be seen.

During my attention craving phase, I had no idea I was craving attention. It was years later when I realized I was doing the most for a look, a compliment, acknowledgment, praise. Since hind sight is 20/20, I wish I would have put that same energy into building myself up instead of relying on other people to make me feel worthy.

So many broken relationships. So much unnecessary drama. So much potential for disaster. So many moments when I knew better. I created soul ties that bound me to a man I had no business with. I allowed that need to be noticed push me into situations that I didn’t have to be in.

Years later I can recognize the sacrifice I made to be seen was not worth it. At all. Not even a little bit.

My journey to becoming confident in myself has been a slow one. And it started with me realizing the most valuable opinion about me had to come from me.

Britney’s Big Idea: The Journey to Wakanda

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This all started with a very small idea that morphed into something bigger than I imagined.

My friend Britney went to see Black Panther on a Sunday and on Monday, she was determined to take ten girls to see it. Like so many of us that saw it, we marveled at the depiction of Black people. We weren’t portrayed in a negative light as so many of our films are. The women in the film weren’t over sexualized and we weren’t the stereotypical angry black woman. The men weren’t drug dealers or in jail, but powerful leaders. Black Panther was the film that our kids could see themselves in. And for this reason, Britney was taking ten girls to see it.

If you know Britney, you know she’s a visionary. She sees the big picture and fills in the details later. So when the number grew from 10 to 25, she was undeterred by what it would take to pull this off. This was Britney’s brainchild but because she believes in the power of connections, she began talking to people in her circle. We created a list of close to 30 individuals, organizations and businesses to target for sponsorships. The more we planned, the more this big idea seemed doable.

We contacted the movie theater in Cordele, Georgia and the manager Kim Mercer not only agreed to give us a private viewing of Black Panther, but she gave us the two biggest theaters. 25 girls was a distant memory and that number was now about 125 young people. Didn’t I tell you that Britney thinks big?

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Once we saw this was going to be bigger than the original 25, Britney hooked up with Krystal Jones because she had just taken a very large group in Columbus. We decided we would ask for people to sponsor a child to go see the movie. A $25 sponsorship would cover the cost of the movie ticket, concessions, a t-shirt (shout out to Marcus Johnson!!) and transportation to the movie theater. In addition to the list of people we were going to ask, we decided to solicit sponsorships on Facebook.

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And then the magic happened. Ya’ll. People gave. And gave. And gave. From Georgia to California to men and women in different countries, people sponsored two, three and four children. We even had someone sponsor a whopping 8 kids!

I was in amazement. I was shocked. I was in tears. People gave so freely without question. Without hating. Without hesitation. Without asking for recognition. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen!

Despite a transportation snafu, on Saturday, March 10, 152 kids and chaperones, traveled to Wakanda.

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This experience was something I cannot get out of my head for a number of reasons. First, the necessity of a film like Black Panther drove people to be generous. Not only in sponsoring a child, but serving as chaperones or providing gift cards, which we randomly gave out to the kids. SN: One gift card wasn’t random. A young lady named Trinity Brown earned her gift card because as I was walking into the lobby, she was coming out of the bathroom and gave a girl some money that she dropped. She could have easily kept it but she didn’t hesitate to return it. Parents, our kids can and will do the right thing!

 

When Britney was planning this and the number of kids kept getting bigger, I got worried. What about transportation? What if we didn’t get enough money? What if we couldn’t get enough chaperones? But if you know Brit, then you know she is all about connections. So much of what we were able to accomplish was because of who she knew. On my Facebook page, I posted “With the right team, the right support, the right connections and the right attitude, big ideas can come to fruition.” If nothing else, this taught me that big plans aren’t so big when you have a support system. This wasn’t something Britney was going to take on herself. Sure it was her idea but there were so many other people involved in this. From securing the theater to getting t-shirts to getting chaperones to come from Atlanta or coming home from college in Fort Valley and Howard, this took A LOT of moving parts to accomplish. Life lesson…there is no harm in asking for help. Make connections and use them!

Finally, Britney’s goal for taking kids to see Black Panther was so that our kids could seem themselves on the big screen as a super hero. The lessons, symbolism and the history in the film is something that should be shared and celebrated. What we didn’t know was there were some kids that had NEVER been to a movie theater to see a movie before. I am overjoyed to know this movie, this movie that celebrates Black Girl Magic and Black Boy Joy was their first cinematic experience.

To some of you, this was just a movie. For me, this was an experience. It’s Monday and I am still on a high from being a part of this. I didn’t write this post to shout out Britney, Krystal and everyone else that contributed (even though they deserve all the kudos for making this happen) but to high light why Black Panther was so important to our kids.

You’re not ready to be a parent

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Dear young Queen,

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked why aren’t we, as older women, sharing our wisdom with younger girls. She asked why aren’t we having for real, honest conversations with our girls about sex because teen pregnancy seems to be all the rage right now. I’m not really sure why but teen parenting has become a trend or why it’s accepted and celebrated as an accomplishment in our young girls.

But I’m here to tell you that you are not ready to be a parent. If no one has told you yet, you have your whole life to be grown. Don’t be so quick to run into adulthood that you make the choice to have a baby before you are mentally, emotionally or financially ready. Having a child young forces you into the role of an adult long before you are mentally prepared to be an adult.

Social media has fooled so many of you into believing parenting is easy. You see the elaborate baby showers. Maternity shoots. Posts that talk about the love and motivation their child has brought into their lives. The adorable clothes. The “mini me”, the “my son is bae”, the “my daughter is my best friend,” captions that depict parenting as a fun past time.

I need you to understand that you are not ready to be a parent.

I am 38 years old and I had my first child when I was 18. My kids are now 19, 14, and 9. I am not a parenting expert by any means; I am just a woman that has had children and I need you to know that you are not ready to be a parent. I wasn’t ready at 18 and I am still trying to figure it out 20 years later. Even if you are a married adult, parenting can be unchartered territory. Imagine how difficult parenting will be for someone your age!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m almost grown, I have a job, I go to school, my baby daddy is gonna help me. You’re thinking my mama is gonna spoil her grandbaby. All my friends will be godmothers. My child isn’t going to have to struggle because I’m gonna go hard for her.

That’s all well and good in theory but I’m here to tell you that is not the way it’s going to go in real life.

Understand that when you have a child, that child is the responsibility of you and the child’s father (and you have to be careful of who you chose to have kids with but that’s another post for another day). Not your mama, sister, auntie, cousin or best friend but you and your child’s father have the responsibility of raising a person. A person. Let that sink in. The child you will have will grow up to be a whole person…a friend, a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, and/or employee and I’ve learned that raising a person is difficult.

My oldest son started college in August of last year. He’s a good kid and I haven’t had any major issues with him but once he left home, I realize there was A LOT I didn’t teach him. I made the mistake of assuming he knew more stuff than he did. It’s been a learning experience for both of us and my other two will be better prepared for leaving home.

I’m not sharing this with you to deter you from ever having kids. Parenting can be rewarding (Jade tells me thank you for EVERYTHING I do for her!) but parenting is also difficult. And truthfully, when you’re young, you don’t really consider how difficult parenting will be. Because young parents are often social media parents. They want you to see the adorable moments and they rarely show you the sleepless nights, the cost of formula, sitting at home while all your friends are out or how much boo boo, throw up, or snot can come out of a baby.

You’re not ready to be a parent because there are things that will happen to your kids that will test you as a parent. There are some things that our kids will experience that we as adults know they will get over but at the moment, it’s the most important thing to them. Things like best friends getting mad, not making the team, losing the championship game, getting injured and not being able to play their senior year, or breaking a cell phone. Some of that can be handled with conversation, shopping and ice cream.

But what about the major stuff? Like the loss of a parent/grandparent/sibling? Or your child being diagnosed with cancer? Or your child asking you why their father doesn’t come around? Or your child being a victim of sexual abuse? Or your child having thoughts of suicide? Or your child going to jail? Are you prepared for that?

I’m here to tell you that you are not.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if you give your child everything they need, physically, mentally, and emotionally, they won’t ever experience any hurt. As an adult, I am much more equipped to help my children navigate through their life. And at your age, you are not ready to do that. How do I know that? Because when I had my first child at 18, I was trying to figure out my own life and I wasn’t really considering the little baby I was hold was going to grow up at some point and be a man.

Believe me when I tell you that having kids isn’t fun. It isn’t fodder for a social media posts. It isn’t a way to keep your boyfriend (again, you have to be careful with who you have children with). Believe me when I tell you that you need time to grow, enjoy life and smash your goals before becoming a parent. Believe me when I tell you that having children at a young age is not something you HAVE to do. Talk to your mama, your grandma, your auntie…someone about birth control (And mamas, we can preach celibacy but be realistic…you used to be a teenage girl, too. But that’s another post for another day).

You’ve seen teenage parents go to work, go to school, and sacrifice. You’ve seen them reach their goals. You’ve seen them be great. Yes, it can be done. I did it and so many women before me have done it as well. The problem is, I didn’t have to do it that way. That stress of HAVING to go to work because I’m a parent and to go to college while being a parent was a stress I didn’t have to endure. That was a choice I didn’t have to make for myself. I am here to tell you that your life can be and will be easier without adding a child to the mix.

Aside the cost of parenting (financially, emotionally, mentally), parenting entails sacrifice. It’s not always easy to give up what you want/need for the needs your child. Parenting means that even when you don’t feel your best, you have the responsibility of taking care of your child. Parenting means you have to make decisions that will not only further you but your children as well. Parenting means that YOU have to be the best YOU before you try to be anything to anyone else.

You have your whole life to become a parent. Right now, you are not ready. It’s not even something you should be considering. There is no rush. Give it a few years (like 10 or so). Establish yourself. Be selfish and live your life for you. At your age, your only focus should be on you and securing your future. Having fun with your friends. Playing with Snapchat filters. Hanging out at football games. Begging your daddy for sew-in money. Having a child should be the last thing on your mind. Just enjoy being young because when adulthood comes, you will wish for these simple days.

Stop giving them seats at your table

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Picture it…Your life, 2018.

You’re doing your thing, writing down your goals and smashing them. You are going back to school, creating a business plan, writing that book, starting that business, booking that cruise, taking that trip, cutting your hair, singing in the choir, getting healthy…you know…out here doing you.

You’re sitting at the head of your table. Spread before you are your plans, your goals and your dreams. They seem far fetched but they are tangible because you are putting in the work. Sitting at this table with you are the people who will push and motivate you. People that want to see you succeed. No yes men, but truth men. The people that clap when you win. These people are sitting at your table because they support you. They don’t want anything in return; they just want to see you living your best life. Your parents, cousins, friends, co-workers, pastors, counselors, mentors, business partners, work out buddies, aunts, uncles, classmates, social media BFFs… They surround you, lift you up, encourage you, allow you to vent, cry and help you get back up again.

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Imagine you decide to open a business and you constantly talk about the naysayers, the people who say you couldn’t do it. You shout out your haters  more than your supporters and make sure everyone knows how unbothered you are by them. You’ve just given your haters a seat at your table.

Imagine you smashing those goals. That new job. Moving. Buying a new car. Closing on your house. Graduating from college. Completing your first marathon. Writing that book. Catering your first party. Decorating your first wedding. And someone doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal. You don’t really know this person but you have to go toe to toe with them to defend your life. You’ve just given this person a seat at your table.

Imagine you finally found a boo and you need the world to know he makes you happy. If he calls you, you post about it. If he buys you gift, you post about it. When he takes you to Waffle House, you post about it. When he texts you sweet messages, you post about it. When you sneeze and he says bless you, you post about it. You’ve given all 2,000 of your Facebook friends a seat at your table.

Now this table is crowded. You’re not even sitting at the head of your own table anymore because you’re lost in the commotion. The people who were at your table don’t see the value in being there anymore because your focus has shifted. You aren’t driven by your goals anymore; you’re more interested in the insignificant, setting the record straight and making sure everyone knows you aren’t bothered.

Moral of the story:  Insignificant people can’t understand you goals. They don’t get why you do what you do. They should never be made privy to the plans on your table. They will never support you. They will not pray for you. They will not uplift you.

Stop giving these people the opportunity to throw you off your game. Stop giving them front row access to your life. Stop allowing them to bring you down to their level. Stop intentionally giving them seats at your table.

When you engage in the petty, when you entertain foolishness, when you become consumed with insignificant things and people, you are giving up seats at your table.Why does this matter? Because the more time you are spending with the unimportant people at your table, the less time you are spending achieving greatness.

 

 

Do it scared!

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Happy New Year! I’ve been a terrible blogger but I’ve been busy otherwise…my first novel, My Brand of Passion was released on December 22. The emotions that I feel about being a published author is surreal! And also the point of this post…

Last year, I wrote Eviction notice. I gave fear a notice that I wasn’t going to bound anymore. I was determined to be an author and get my writing out there. So I put in the work. Wrote the book. Re-wrote the book. And re-wrote the book again. But once it was finished, I just sat there. I did nothing with my book. I spoke to Amanda (who would become my editor) and she told me to send her my book, but I didn’t. I just held onto this book that I poured my time, my effort and my energy into. But what good was all of my time if I did nothing with it? So I sent her my book.

And then I cried.

Yes, I cried. For real, ugly tears. That fear I thought I banished came back and brought his friend doubt with him. What if my book wasn’t good enough? What if my editor said it was the worst book she ever read? What if no one bought my book? What if it didn’t make sense? What if…what if…what if?

All the what ifs played in my head and became immobile. I didn’t want to think about anything related to my book. Then…my editor was done with my book. So was the second editor. The cover was done. It was time to release it *Que the tears and fear*. The day before my book was released I was rocking in a corner. Release day I was a hot mess. Never in my life had I felt that kind of fear. It was a dream come true. It what I’d been working towards all my life. It was my passion, my goals coming to fruition. And I was scared out of my mind.

Then my sister shared this post on Instagram and my whole perspective changed.

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My book, My Brand of Passion, is out only because I did it scared. The fear wasn’t gone. It was still there in full force. But because I know I am an author, I did it scared.  Because I knew this is bigger than me, I did it scared. Because I knew that someone needed to read this book, I did it scared.

Whatever your purpose is, whatever your passion is, do it. Even if fear is living in your head, do it. Even if you have doubts, do it Even if you have to do it scared, do it. Most of the time, when you are truly passionate about something, there is fear in taking it beyond vision to action. But you still have to do it.

Go back to school. Write the book. Start a business. Change careers. Move. We’ve been conditioned to believe that fear is some sort of abstract, abnormal emotion. No, fear is a very real, human response to doing something new, something different, something that’s bigger than you.

Getting rid of fear isn’t a simple task. But just know that if you have goals and dreams, your fear isn’t just going to disappear but…you just have to do it scared.

If you would like to purchase my book, click here My Brand of Passion

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Networking Power: Twenty40 Young Professional’s Group

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Every time I see one of those “I keep my circle small” or “I don’t need anyone” memes on social media, I cringe. I’m not really sure when we began our descent into I-can-do-everything-by-myself territory but I wish we’d rethink that route.

I know there is something to be said about self-efficacy and pulling ourselves up by our boot straps and all that jazz but we also need to be realistic. I believe Maya Angelou said it best “Nobody, but nobody can make it out here alone.”

I believe so strongly in the power of connections. It is very true what they say that it’s not always what you know, it’s who you know. Because of who I know and who I am connected to, I have enjoyed some perks and privileges. From jobs to friendships to finding my literary editor, I have learned that connections can work wonders in your life.

And I am not alone in my thinking.

Raven Payne, the founder of twenty40 Young Professionals Group, understands the necessity of networking and connections. Raven, along with co-founders Broderick Engram and Darrell Sabbs, Jr., has a vision for this group to energize, engage and empower the young professionals in the Americus/Sumter County area. Through workshops and networking opportunities, this group hopes to connect 25-45 year olds in the area with other like minded professionals. Gathering the young professionals from a variety of backgrounds, goals, dreams, educational levels and occupations will create a network of experts, beginners and a community of people who want to be better versions of themselves and determined to make a positive impact on Americus/Sumter County.

I am excited for what this group is about and what this group will do in our community. I have not lived in Americus all of my life but this is home. I feel an obligation to contribute to my home in a positive way. By networking with people who want to reach their full potential, I can be motivated to do all I can both personally and professionally. twenty40 wants the young professionals in the community to level up but this isn’t a competition. It’s not about who can earn the most degrees or who can own the most businesses or who can generate the most buzz on social media. It’s about how I can learn from someone else. It’s about how I can set goals to better me and my community. It’s about how we can utilize our talents separately for a unified cause. It’s about how we can grow. It’s about how we can become role models and mentors for the next generation.

Everyone you will every meet knows something you don’t-Bill Nye

There are a lot of holes in Americus. There are a lot of areas we can improve. There are a lot of people that need services we are passionate about or can provide. There is so much we can do. I am excited for the formation of this group and I am ready to connect with people who are about growth and learning, setting and achieving goals and developing into leaders to strengthen the community we call home.

To connect with twenty40:

Website:  https://www.twenty40ypg.org/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pg/twenty40YPG/about/?ref=page_internal

Email: twenty40ypg@gmail.com

Thank you Raven and the rest of the twenty40 team for the vision to empower the people of Americus/Sumter County

 

Black mental health matters

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Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. I am just someone who has taken some classes and is very passionate about this subject.

In the wake of two horrific events that have taken place over the past few weeks, I am compelled to make this post and address a huge issue in the African-American community: mental health.

To be honest, I have not researched these two events enough to be considered an expert. I’m actually taking a social media hiatus because these tragedies are too much for me emotionally (I have traits of being an empath which means I tend to carry other people’s emotions). First, in San Bernardino, California, Karen Smith and one of her students were killed in her classroom by her estranged husband. He then turned the gun on himself. This past Sunday, Robert Godwin, Sr.’s death was broadcast over Facebook live when his killer picked him randomly to die because of issues in his relationship. I refuse to speak the names of the shooters.

I am assuming mental health was at the crux of these killings but as I read accounts, I am convinced mental health had its role in these senseless killings.

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A few months ago, I posted about my struggles with depression and how I made the decision to seek professional help after praying and ignoring it stopped working for me. I am not “cured” as I don’t believe some mental health diagnosis can be cured. Instead, I have some more productive and healthy coping mechanisms.

By and large, the African American community ignores mental health. We don’t acknowledging our anger or sadness. We don’t believe in therapy. We don’t believe in medication. We don’t want to be labeled as crazy. Instead, we believe in prayer, ignoring it and dismissing it as “that’s just the way he/she is”.

According to Mental Health America,  in 2014, 13.2 people in the United States identified themselves as being black or African American. Of this number, over 16% were diagnosed with a mental illness in the past year; that is 6.8 million people. I truly believe that number is higher due to the number of people who have not been diagnosed.

I read the follow statistics and even though I shouldn’t be, I was very surprised by what has been reported.

According to the US HHS Office of Minority Health:

  • Adult Black/African Americans are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites.
  • Adult Black/African Americans living below poverty are three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty.
  • Adult Black/African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites.
  • And while Black/African Americans are less likely than white people to die from suicide as teenagers, Black/African Americans teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than are white teenagers (8.3 percent v. 6.2 percent).

Black/African Americans of all ages are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime than are non-Hispanic whites, making them more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Black/African Americans are also twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with schizophrenia (Mental Health America, 2017).

What has to happen for Black people to take their mental health serious? There are three reasons I think we are stuck in this mental health stigma:

  1. There are not enough African American therapists and counselors

Mental Health America states one reason black people do not go to therapy is because less than 2% of the members of the American Psychological Association are African Americans. We fear that someone who is not like us will not understand our struggles. And to me, this is such a valid reason we do not seek out therapy.

When looking for a therapist, regardless of ethnicity, it is important to find someone you are comfortable with because this person is going to be dealing with intimate parts of your life. Trusting someone of another ethnicity to be privy to your secrets can be a huge hindrance to our recovery. I am in grad school now earning my master’s in human services because I want to be a trusted face in the world of mental health for African Americans.

  1. We believe in God, not in therapy

Most black people are religious and therefore, we notoriously try to pray mental health away. For me, it didn’t work but God may be the comfort someone needs to be free from mental health issues. I believe in the power of prayer but I also believe in self-determination. Sometimes we can’t pray and forget it. We have to put in some effort, too. What’s that part about faith without works?

Side note: Even though some clergy are not licensed mental health professionals, they are often great sources of comfort and assistance to people suffering from mental health. Sometimes the simple gesture of listening can make the world of difference.

  1. We don’t understand mental health

There is such a negative stigma associated with mental health and it stops us from addressing our problems because we do not want these labels. By the same turn, we brag about being crazy, having anger issues or being bi-polar to justify our behavior. Oftentimes, people really do have anger issues or characteristics of bi-polar but we will not seek help to address it. Now, I will agree that mental health diagnosis are often abused (i.e. every black child does not have ADHD) but there are some times when the diagnosis is real. Research your symptoms and speak with a professional. Understanding what you are facing can be the first line of defense in treatment.

We have to get to a point where our mental health becomes serious for us. We have to start talking about it. We cannot continue to let it run rampant in our communities. Here are a few of my suggestions:

  • If your employer offers health insurance, they often offer an employee assistance program with 3-5 free sessions of therapy. Check with your employer to see if this is available to you
  • Some communities may also offer free anger management or other coping mechanism classes/sessions
  • Some therapists offer a sliding fee scale for payment. Weekly therapy or medication may not be necessary but in the very least, seek help
  • Check on your friends often. Don’t be so quick to write your friends off as crazy or accept violent behavior as a personality trait. Talk to your friend that is abusive or blows up at work and encourage them to seek help. Watch their behavior because what they do says a lot more than the words they speak. You cannot make your friend seek help but being there and being supportive can make a difference in their lives
  • Parents check on your kids and listen when they talk. Our kids are faced with so much more pressure and stress than I ever remember enduring at my kid’s age. Social media has a big part in that so make sure you are checking their pages for any signs your child might be struggling. Have conversations with your kids about everything and be involved in their lives

So what else can we do to remedy our mental health crisis in the African American community? We have to get the conversation going around mental health. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I know we have to stop ignoring it.

Reference:

Mental Health America (2017). Black and African American communities and mental health. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/african-american-mental-health#Source 3