Mental health in the Black community is a taboo subject, so much so that it is generally not even talked about in most households. How many black people can you confidently say have been outspoken about their mental health struggles? I’m not just talking about celebrities; I mean pastors, parents and teachers. I can barely name any and I spend a lot of time researching and advocating for better support within the community.
Black people are often misdiagnosed by doctors, arrested during psychological breakdowns and prevented from accessing the correct care. These things occur due to the lack of representation and role-models openly discussing the limited resources available and advocating for better support.
Additionally, many communities are made up of migrants or immigrants, children raised by parents who left either war torn or unstable countries to seek better lives for their families. These children are raised in two worlds, one where they are taught to be grateful to be given opportunities beyond their parents’ wildest dreams and another where they are facing racial discrimination in a whole new demographic where very few people share their experiences.
So when the child then develops mental health issues they find that they cannot turn to their parents for support because it turns into a ‘who has it worse’ competition: the parents who left everything for their children or the child who has been experiencing bullying since primary school? The response is always obvious from the parents: ‘stop being ungrateful’, so the child grows believing that there is no support available.
To add fuel to the fire, the British media’s issue with representation further reinforces these issues; it fails to address mental health in the black community which then trickles down into our communities. Tabloids and television shows are quick to use stereotypes to draw in viewers and revenue. We see the angry black woman or sassy black woman constantly being portrayed on TV, and this then follows young and old black women alike into their everyday lives.
As someone with anxiety, depression and a resting bitch face, I often have people telling me I’m intimidating, snobbish, that they ‘thought [I] was a bitch’ when they first met me and various other things which for them mean nothing, but to me cut deep. Such situations have fuelled my anxiety which in turn fuels my depression, I never know in certain situations if someone is just racist or a well-meaning person raised to be ignorant, I hate constantly being uncomfortable and afraid to speak.
Often in the news we see reports of knife crime and its links to young black men, the government is quick to condemn the attacks and open more prisons, however there is never any mention on how the government aims to provide support to victims and communities which may experience trauma from the attacks.
Additionally, the narrative that it is just black men involved is a dangerous one, it builds negative stereotypes, incites racial prejudices and attacks, all of which can go onto affect the minds of black people with no proximity to the dangers.
Being someone with anxiety and two brothers, I often spend days at a time panicking whenever my brothers visit large cities. I worry that they may be stopped and searched in the best of cases or end up as victims of mistaken identification and in an A&E room or police cell, miles away from home. Very few people talk about the psychological effects the media has on Black people’s mental health, and I think it is time that we started to.
We as a community need to be more vocal about the issues we face, it is not enough to ignore or ‘pray it away’. We need pastors referring members to specialist help, parents communicating with their children and friends being considerate of the world black people are living in. While life may generally be great, it’s not easy living as a minority, especially one with mental health issues.