I was extremely excited, not to mention honored when Dr. Cash invited me to be a guest contributor on PrivyOasis.com. The universe has a way of responding to the verbal and mental messages that you send out, which is exactly the case in this instance! Two days prior to being contacted by Dr. Cash, a close friend and I had a conversation about mental health in the black community. In that conversation, we discussed the history of what has occurred in America since the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown Virginia in the year 1619. We also discussed how the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 impacted race relations and how it affected some African Americans mentally. Another key point of that discussion was the fact that Jim Crow laws, which advocated racial segregation, didn’t end until the late 1960s. Given this pattern of mental trauma in the United States, one would think that African Americans would be the biggest proponents of understanding mental health; however this is not the case.
Mental illness is not something that only affects African Americans.
I feel as though it’s a conversation that most people, regardless of race, just care not to discuss. So, why am I making this a black thing one might ask? Well, I’m a black man that’s been submerged in black culture my entire life, which kind of makes me an expert on topics that black men discuss in the barber shop! The fact of the matter is, conversations about mental illness make us uncomfortable for whatever reason and this has to change in order to improve our condition. We have to hold ourselves accountable for the words we speak and the thoughts we think because they’re both directly related to our actions. In my book, Escape from Poverty: 28 Ways to Win at Life, I ask the question
“What are we not teaching our children that other races are teaching theirs?”
This question is very important and it’s equally important to ask this same question about mental health. Does mental health have an impact on the economic disparity that African Americans face amongst other races? There has never been a more critical time in history for African American men to have this type of serious dialogue on a regular basis.
Take a moment to think about what’s happening in the America today.
More than 45 million people live in poverty, unemployment levels are at an all-time high, there’s constant political infighting, and not to mention the rising crime rates in major cities like my hometown of Chicago. I’m sure you’d agree that these are not just African American issues; they are American issues and people need help! In my life coaching practice, I make it a point to let people know that I’m not a counselor or a therapist, however I work closely with people in the mental health field and I will refer you to the proper professional if deemed necessary. I do this because I truly understand the value in talking with others about your problems and getting treatment if it’s made available to you. As I said earlier in this article mental illness does not discriminate and it’s a problem that continues to surmount all over the world, not just in America. As black men we have to lead by example and always be cognizant of the fact that mental illness is here to stay and there is no such thing as a perfect life.
Brothers, let’s just agree to do a better job of discussing mental illness and maybe this will positively impact how society deals with it. In conclusion, I recommend having a life coach, counselor, or therapist on speed dial because when you know better, you do better!
Making a Change,
Eddie D. Love, CPC