mental health disorders in the black community: let’s break the taboo

June 17, 2011

I’m a psych major and also suffer from a personality disorder (it’s called Borderline Personality Disorder, for those wanting to know or to look it up). I wanted to start this conversation because through personal experience and from my studies I have learned that many African Americans suffer from mental health disorders, but are less likely to get treatment and help for themselves. Is it lack of insurance and money? Or the stigma that Black people are to be tough and suck bad situations up? Or just general embarrassment of admitting a disorder?

Words by Kia Jay

Having a mental disorder does not make you crazy. There is so much false information that circle almost every single disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). AIDS and STDs are not the only things that the African American community needs to be more educated on, mental health is also very important. I know it’s not killing people like AIDS but it deals with your body so it’s just as important.

Growing up I didn’t realize how different I actually was from others. Besides musical and value differences I also seemed to have a different thought process and reacted to situations differently than my peers. I found myself getting extremely angry, depressed and unbearably distressed about things l knew logically I shouldn’t have reacted to in such a way. Not getting into too many personal details but I ended up being a danger to myself on many occasions. I was impulsive and just distressed, and so anxious 24/7 that I could feel the emotional pain changing into physical pain. I couldn’t stand to be alone and feared I would be abandoned and needed constant reassurance from those already in my life that they wanted me around. It ruined friendships and relationships because you were either “good” or “bad”, I have no grey area, which is something I still struggle with. After learning about my personality disorder I was relieved to know what was going on with me, that I wasn’t crazy. Till I realized that I was still alone… not many African Americans have not been seen and diagnosed with Personality Disorders.

I receive proper treatment to help me manage day to day, but unfortunately Personality Disorders are different than depression or anxiety, even different from being bipolar (which supposedly are all chemical)… it’s something that’s said to be embedded in my personality. (?) Some of the information I’ve mentioned above not many African Americans know about and that bothers me. Like the difference between anxiety and depression, and that PDs are whole different disorders.

I want to hear other people stories, if you would like to share, and hear opinions. Seems like it’s something that is never really talked about among African-Americans.