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Please don’t judge what you don’t understand

“Once my loved one accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can’t we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans. The message must go on billboards and in radio and TV public service announcements. It must be preached from pulpits and discussed in community forums. It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”

Bebe Moore Campbell

Mental illness in the black and minority communities is something that so many of us refuse to discuss, or pretend that we don’t know something is wrong. It’s like we’re ashamed of something that we had no part in, so we hide it. That’s like someone diagnosed with diabetes not addressing it, refusing help/to take insulin and dying from a diabetic coma! Mental illness is a DISEASE like any other physical disease.

Some in minority communities are quick to call a person with mental disorders “crazy”, say they’re crackheads/ drug addicts, call them lazy, or in church tell them it’s just the devil you have to rebuke that! Now I love God and of course I’m not perfect, but do consider myself a Christian. I believe that the Church is where we should start educating our spiritual leaders on this topic. When they’re properly informed they can then inform their congregation as well as communities about this subject. Being uninformed leads to this stigma that OVERWHELMS the black community about mental illness.

Today at church I had a great conversation with a good friend of mine. We were talking about starting something in our community to inform our neighbors about mental health, as well as other resources that they may not know about or have access to. So many of us go untreated, under treated, or just flat out think what’s going on with us is NORMAL. So in this article today I’m going to be including some websites where you can find help in your areas, websites where you can read other stories you may relate to concerning mental health, and help lines where you can call anytime if you feel like life itself is just too much at that moment. There’s always someone out there who cares, even if you don’t know them.

The quote I started this off with was from Bebe Moore Campbell. She was an esteemed author, mother and mental health advocate. They even named July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. She not only spoke around the country advocating for the rights of those with mental health issues, but trying to stop the stigma of mental illness especially in communities of color.

I have so much to say about the brilliant and beautiful Mrs. Bebe, so I’ll do an entire blog about her exclusively at a different time. But I did want to put this bit of information in here while speaking on her. Not a lot of people know that she had a daughter who was a model and actress. When you see her face, you’ll probably think “oh I know her.”

Her name is Maia Campbell, and she was one of the reasons Bebe began advocating so hard for mental illness. Maia was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was in and out of treatment centers. Often refusing treatment, and turning to drugs to self medicate. She was on the show “In the House” with LL Cool J. The last I heard she had been on Iyanla fix my life and was trying to get back custody of her daughter.

I just want everyone to see that mental disorders don’t discriminate. Regardless of cultural background, race, how much money you have or the career path you choose. This could affect anyone you, your family, friends or someone on the streets you just write off as being “crazy!”

Examples of signs and symptoms of mental illness include:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people
  • Problems with alcohol or drug use
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Sex drive changes
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Some people think that those with mental disorders are easy to spot. Although some disorders like Schizophrenia left untreated could leave the patient paranoid, talking to themselves or aggressive on the streets. But most of the time they’re the people we see every day. They are our friends, families, and neighbors.

Mental illness is not anything that’s contagious, or that you have to beware of. The facts on it is something that needs to be made more readily accessible. Once you are educated on it and actually talk to or read stories of our journeys, we can start tearing down that wall of stigma and judgment. Potentially saving lives or helping someone that you never knew could use that compassion.

Here’s a list of some of the best websites about mental illness:

  • Nami.org
  • Samhsa.gov
  • Stigmaneverhelps.com
  • Mentalhealth.gov
  • And Google.com is my best friend when searching for information on particular issues, or to get information from an abundance of resources. Also here are some hotlines to call for help ANYTIME!
  • Sahmsa National helpline 1-800-662-help (4357)
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline
  • 1-800-273-TALK

Also here’s a more specific link to resources that may be of help:

http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources

Love and positive vibes always❤

Please share anywhere you think people will read and listen!

-LaLa Bullock

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