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Monday, May 16, 2022

Stop turning a blind eye to mental illness … address it

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“Monica is crazy” or “Richard is a little off.”

We’ve all heard people say such statements in reference to someone we know, or we have made similar comments ourselves. The unfortunate fact is that many people whom we dismiss as being crazy may actually have some form of mental illness. Even more disturbing is that these illnesses often go undiagnosed in the Black community.

I don’t know when seeing a psychologist or therapist gained such a stigma within the African-American community, but I’m willing to bet it goes back several generations.

Historically, Blacks have overcome tremendous obstacles, exhibited pride in themselves and have been known for their strength. Perhaps these very characteristics are some of the factors that dissuade Blacks from seeking help.

The sad thing about mental illness is that some forms of it can be hereditary. If one person has a mental illness that goes untreated and they have children, then their children might also suffer from illness. Then that child may grow up to have children, and the cycle continues.

That’s why it’s important to properly address mental illness.

One complaint I’ve often heard from educators is that they have students who are obviously mentally challenged. However, when the parents are notified, rather than look into the issue, the parents deny the problem exists. It’s important to note that some teachers and administrators may be wrong in their assessment, but they may also be right. The best way to determine whether someone really is mentally challenged is to get them evaluated. Although I’m sure it can be hurtful and disappointing to have a child with a mental illness, what good is ignoring the problem?

The cycle of denial in our community has to cease.

Dealing with mentally ill people can be a huge challenge, particularly if that person refuses help. That’s why it’s important for everyone to be observant. This includes family, friends, doctors, social workers, etc.

I know someone who obviously suffers from some form of mental illness. A stranger who never observed this person would be able to conclude there is an issue. However, this particular person’s parents ignored the problem, their charter school ignored the problem, and their social workers are ignoring the problem. We need to stop passing the buck; we need to stop waiting for the next person to deal with the problem …we need to be proactive.

What we all need to realize is that, unless we address mental health issues within our community, crime, homelessness, suicide and neglect of children will continue to rise. The ails we currently experience will only get worse if we continue to be a society in denial. They will also get worse if the government continues to limit funding for quality services and organizations that assist the mentally disabled. Ask anyone in the city when they say they noticed an upsurge in crime and homelessness, and many will say near the time Central State, the facility that housed a lot of mentally ill patients, closed.

I’m a strong proponent of counseling, therapy and medicine that help treat mental illness. Receiving such services doesn’t mean a person is less-than or will be frowned upon; it means they are being proactive in their quest to be as healthy as possible. We need to drive this message home: Treatment is good. More of us need to embrace it for ourselves or those we love. Doing so will eventually result in a stronger, healthier community.

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