Call it what it is

20 Oct

The myths and stigma that surround depression create needless pain and confusion, and can keep people from getting proper treatment. The following statements reflect some common misconceptions about African Americans and depression: “Why are you depressed? If our people could make it through slavery, we can make it through anything.” “When a black woman suffers from a mental disorder, the opinion is that she is weak. And weakness in black women is intolerable.” “You should take your troubles to Jesus, not some stranger/psychiatrist.” The truth is that getting help is a sign of strength. People with depression can’t just “snap out of it.” Also, spiritual support can be an important part of healing, but the care of a qualified mental health professional is essential. And the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it can be (Mental Health America).

  • Debunking Myth #1: Our people made it through slavery, yes-physically.  Mentally, have we? In 1863 when the emancipation proclamation was signed into law, were our mental shackles of inferiority and no self worth also released? NO! This is an awful lot of pressure to put on ourselves to compare the social construct of slavery to whatever you may be going through now.  What it does is falsely diminishes the power that depression may currently have on you.  Its a mental disorder that affects the mind and if left untreated, the body.  It can be just as debilitating as cancer. We must begin to take this seriously.  Allow yourself to accept that what you’re feeling, is overwhelming, it is hard, and it requires help that may be outside of yourself.
  • Debunking Myth #2:  Yes, black women have to endure a lot.  No, we don’t have to do it alone.  Why is it acceptable to form support groups for mothers of children with disabilities, women fighting breast cancer, single mothers, etc but its in any way shape or form acceptable to have support for dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression?  Let’s call it what it is, DEPRESSION.  There is no power in a name, call it ‘going through’, call it ‘the blues’, call it what you want but that doesn’t change what it is.  It does not make us weak to admit that we struggle.  It makes us weak to let that struggle take over to the point that we cannot function.  That is what depression, if left untreated, can do.
  • Debunking Myth #3: Therapy is not meant, in any way, to undermine your spiritual relationship.  In fact, lots of counselors will encourage clients to use that relationship as  means to express emotion.  If your faith gives you strength then let it work with your counseling.  There is not a Jesus Vs. Therapist battle.  I can only think of the old joke:

There was a guy drowing in the ocean. He prayed to God to save him.

A few minutes later a boat came and offered to pick him up and take him to shore. The drowning man refuesed and the boat left.

Another boat came and offered to save the man and he said no, and the boat left.

Finally a third boat came and said I can help you. Once again the drowing man said no.

When he died he said to God: I trusted you. Why didn’t you save me??

God said: I sent you 3 boats!!

  • Don’t miss your boat! if you have questions about how therapy and your spiritual beliefs may work then be open about it in your counseling.  Talk to your pastor about seeing a counselor.  I, honestly, would be weary of any spiritual leader who would discourage other help.  Look for counselors who incorporate spirituality in their counseling.  There is help out there if you are willing to take it.
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