Mental Illness and the Black Woman

Do you know what mental illness is? The Mayo Clinic refers to it as a wide range of mental health conditions – disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Did you know that research done by California Black Women’s Health Project (2003) found only 7% of Black women with symptoms of mental illness sought treatment.

Image result for images of Maia CampbellRecently the world became privy to a video of the beautiful and talented actress, Maia Campbell. She was an actress in the late 90’s on a television sitcom called In the House starring LL Cool J. This young woman was on the rise to stardom. Sadly in the video it was clear that Maia had relapsed. She’s speaking into the camera incoherently about crack, being raped, while sporting a torn bra and shorts. My heart sank for her, not just for her drug relapse, but for the lack of compassion and respect this man had for her as a human being. Sir, and why was she pumping your gas?

I had previously seen Maia on Iyanla’s Fix My Life and she looked good. She spoke freely of living with bi-polar disorder, going off her medication and drug addiction. Sadly for some, mental health issues left undiagnosed or untreated can lead to substance abuse. It seems to be Maia’s current status.

Within the black community mental health issues often times go unchecked because of shame and stigma. Black women pretend to have it all together and are “strong” , because help is frowned upon. Due to the lack of knowledge, signs and symptoms regarding mental illness the black community normalizes Pookie and them – being crazy.   Unfortunately, there isn’t much research with regard to black women, mental illnesses and our coping behaviors.  I do know you can’t simply pray away mental health issues, because they only get worse over time if untreated. Think of your brain as a car’s engine, sometimes you can ride a long time with the check engine light on but there is always something major going on underneath the hood.

When a nail breaks we rush to get it repaired, let’s be that vigilant about our mental health. Mental illness has a broad range of conditions i.e. panic disorder, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, etc. they impair normal psychological functioning. My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6. 

Symptoms include but are not limited to: increased sensitivity, apathy, feeling disconnected, illogical thinking, lack of concentration, nervousness, appetite/ sleep changes, rapid mood changes. If you or someone you know are suffering from two or more of these symptoms at the same time, it’s best to seek professional help before the check engine light comes and stays on.

There is no shame and you are not weak for asking and receiving help. I’m sending prayers, love and light to Maia Campbell, her daughter and the rest of her family. Thank goodness for the people who encouraged her to go to rehab.

It’s unfortunate that instead of helping, there are some people who will do anything and exploit anyone for likes. Seems to me F.A.M. E. is a mental illness or one hell of a drug!

Suicide hotline: (800)273-8255

Depression & Bi-polar Support Alliance: (800)826-3632

National Institute of Mental Health: (866) 615-6464

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