One of the reasons I started to work at Girard Medical Center was so I could better understand my mother’s addiction and depression. She behaved in ways I did not understand. I always wondered what made her so critical, mean, and sad.
In fact, I did not understand why a lot of people in my family acted the way they did.
Growing up, I heard a lot of code words being used for mental health. For example: “Don’t mess with her, she doesn’t take no stuff” or “You know something is wrong with her or him”. I would witness bizarre behavior within my family and neighborhood.
As I grew up and experienced my own mental health concerns, I began reading self-help books. But self-help books still left me with a lot of unanswered questions such as: “Why do people hurt children” and “How come some drunk folks become violent.” Sometimes I would listen to motivational speakers and felt great for as long as they were speaking.
When I started working at my job, I learned a lot about mental health. I learned about trauma and how it can create a chaotic person. I learned the value of peer support and how therapy can help people dealing with mental health concerns.
It is my belief that in the Black community mental health is still viewed as taboo. The fear and shame of admitting they have mental health challenges is a barrier and cause for many to not seek help.
Fear of what others will think of them or the things they will think of themselves stems from a common ideology within my community to not tell your business to strangers, to have better faith in God, and to pray your problems away.
A fear of being seen as weak with possible consequences of our children being taken away, and the mistrust we have of people outside of the community are all factors that drive the disconnect between mental health and the Black community. We have socialized dysfunction that has become normal behavior with some folks who live in fear and have very little faith that they have the ability to recreate their life.
Fear is only false evidence appearing to be real. There is nothing wrong with asking for help when you are in distress. We all have the ability to recreate our lives. I know I was not living my best life and I was capable of so much more. I learned that while in therapy.
So I allowed others to help me help myself.
You don’t have to operate from a place of dysfunction and fear. We all have the ability to make our lives better and become contributing members of society. Don’t let pride and shame stop you from seeking help to help you become the best version of yourself.
Do you realize the powerful impact you will have in your family and the community with a stable mind?
About the Author: Imani Badie is a lived-experience consultant. She is a Community Recovery Specialist for the Miracles in Progress program at the Be Well Health Center at Girard Medical Center.