The most important thing that has come from this pandemic is the state of mental health. The topic of mental health is shunned upon in our culture. It causes alienation with people who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar, and numerous trauma-inflicted disorders. An increase in suicide amongst minorities has also become prevalent in our culture because many do not have the resources or support system to assist with maintaining their mental health. Let’s take a look at some statistics below.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Health,
“ 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24
Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34″ (nami.org, 2021)
With the statistics above, it is fair to say that it is a cause for concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a startling trend occurred during the pandemic among Black Americans ( Recent CDC data).“15% of Black, non-Hispanic respondents seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days (compared to 8% of Whites and 10.7% of all respondents). The data also show 44% of Black, non-Hispanic respondents reported more than one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom (compared to almost 38% of Whites, and 40% of all respondents)”. (mentalhealthfirstaid.org, 2021)
Now imagine the many people who are not included in the statistics because they have no one to talk to because they have been programmed to “shake it off, pray on it, man up or deal with it. ” Who can they honestly go to without being labeled as “crazy, “weak, pussy, or sensitive-ass.” In our culture, we have pushed away people crying out for help. Going to counseling is off-limits to black folks. We are taught to keep things to ourselves or in-house because it’s nobody’s business. Our black boys and men have it even worse because they are taught to be tuff, show no emotions, and keep everything inside because it shows weakness. Imagine holding in all of your sadness, hurt, pain, tears, secrets, and anger because you were raised to “be strong” no matter the cost? That is equivalent to being mentally abused by someone that constantly calls you names and bullying you. No one wants to carry that burden on them for years. This cycle creates other habits such as drug and alcohol abuse to ease the pain.
I was a ticking time bomb at one point in my life. I had so many emotions and issues; I knew early on something wasn’t right with me. I went through middle school and college suffering from depression and anxiety. I went most of my adult life trying to mask it and deal with it on my own. Until one day, I went against the grain. I decided to seek counseling and speak to my primary physician. I knew I should not have excessive sleepless nights because of anxiety. I knew that I should not be sad most of my life while smiling out in public to mask my truth. I knew getting drunk would not help me get over the hump of emotions. I damn sure knew I could no longer leave it in “God’s hands.” I had to take a stand for my mental health and get the help necessary to maintain my sanity. I also realized that I had to set boundaries in my life to minimize relapses.
Some boundaries I would suggest setting to assist with your mental health:
- Say NO when necessary!!! Do not take on more than you can handle!!! I can’t stress this enough!!! This includes your work schedule. As an educator, I have made it a point to minimize working over my work schedule. I do not feel the need to prove that I am a good employee by working overtime or burning out. I will not accept tasks especially if I am not getting paid for it. The sooner I realized this; the better I became. Your time is PRICELESS!!! You can never get it back once it is gone.
- Don’t bring work home!!! Set boundaries and time limits. Take work emails off your cell phone. Do not look at emails during your off time. I learned this the hard way. When people realize you will answer emails at anytime of the day/night/weekend, they will abuse or expect you to constantly do it. You are not obligated to answer emails/calls after your work schedule. Enjoy your family. Bring balance between your work and family life.
- Make time for yourself!!! You must find the time to enjoy the simple things in life. A massage, manicure, and pedicure once a month could really relax you. If you enjoy fishing or taking a ride out alone, do it!!! Set aside an hour a week for “me-time”. This includes leaving the kids behind.
- Stay away from negative energy!!! The older you get; the more your soul can decipher when you need to remove yourself from negativity. That includes people, places, and things. You will soon realize some things aren’t meant for you anymore. If you have a Negative Nancy and a Donald Downer around; dismiss yourself. If the environment doesn’t feel safe or right; leave. Do whatever you want that brings on positive vibes.
- Follow your instinct!!! If you feel something isn’t right; then go with it. Never doubt your intuition.
- Take your medication regularly!!! Your physician will work with you to find the correct medication that is suitable for you. If you aren’t feeling right or have thoughts of suicide, drowsiness, depression, etc., let your doctor know. There are so many various medications that can assist with depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Find the one that works for you. Don’t give up because the first trial run didn’t work out. Don’t stop taking your medication when you began to feel better without talking to your doctor.
- Seek counseling!!! It is okay to talk with someone professional. I would recommend this simply because this is the one person you can be completely honest with. You can let down your walls and begin to heal from traumas that occurred throughout your lifetime. Whether it is death, abandonment issues, divorce, abuse, rape, incarceration, drugs, etc.; a counselor does not judge you like your family/friends would. Plus it stays within the confinement of the four walls of the office. The catch is you must be open to it and be completely honest with yourself.
- Have a support system. It doesn’t matter if it is only one person or three; have those people on speed dial when you feel the need to talk. If there are groups focused on your issue; join them. You would be surprised at how many people are going through the same thing you are.
- Always remember, there are people who are worse off than you!!! It is never the end of the world for you. There is always someone who would swap your life with theirs in a second!!! Just because you suffer from mental illness or disorders; doesn’t mean it is a death sentence. It only means you have to work a little harder to maintain your mental health.
If you ever feel like you want to commit suicide, please dial 911. You can check yourself into a facility before choosing death. There is nothing wrong with calling the National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255. If someone you know states they want to kill himself, please call 911 or take them to the nearest hospital for mental assistance. I would rather someone hate me for calling 911 than finding them dead. Lastly, don’t ignore the signs of mental illness or disorders. Get help.