Why Black People Need Therapy

I’m going to try to make this make sense to you. Severely mentally ill people go to therapy but not all people who go to therapy are severely mentally ill. Now, mental illness is very well existent within our society; but the media portrayal of mental illness has probably played a significant role in why people who may otherwise need it, shun therapy.

We often carry the unfortunate events of our lives with us and they affect us in a variety of ways that we don’t always realize. Some of us have many failed relationships and friendships, some of us hold so much bitterness toward the opposite sex that healthy relationships seem impossible. Most of these issues usually stem from our parents and/or someone or something that has hurt us very much. The occurrence of deep rooted issues like this may cause depression and very severe events can result in post-traumatic stress disorder. Consistent everyday problems with work, negative relationships or financial crises take a toll on us. What do we do when there’s no one to talk to or the people we do talk to have heard it all?

Do you regularly cry at night? Heartbroken? Are you constantly irritated and angry or overwhelmed? Do you feel tense, anxious or nervous in public settings? Are you often feeling sick and for no explicable reason? Unhealthy relationship with food? Suicidal thoughts? Yes?

Then, honey, you could probably use some therapy.

The Black community allows itself to be victim to a myriad of illnesses just because of our ignorance to available treatment options and preventative care. Some of this ignorance is innocent but I’m sure most of it is not. People don’t want to be associated with seeing a mental health care specialist because they don’t want to be assumed crazy. But what’s more sane than to be proactive about mental health? What’s sad is, I really wanted to add a bit about how we care so much about our physical health, but unfortunately, I have serious doubts about that. What I don’t have a doubt about is that the state of our mental health dictates what we allow to happen to our bodies and the risks we take. If this isn’t enough to cause us to at least consider getting information about speaking to a therapist I don’t know what is.

Those who have family members who have had a history of mental illness are at an increased risk of also developing some type of mental illness. If you know for sure that a family member suffers from some type of disorder, pay extra attention to the state of your mental well-being. It may be difficult to trace because a lot of people don’t even recognize any signs or symptoms for various conditions. Many of our family members may have actually suffered from something but never had it diagnosed.

When someone we know explains that they’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression for example, we tell them to get over it. Many of us don’t embrace people who come forward about the state of their mental health. A lot of our family and friends mean well because they want to encourage us to snap out of it and be strong but something like depression isn’t about weakness. It’s about chemicals, it’s about genetics, it’s about feelings and life events. When our friends and family just don’t understand or simply cannot relate, having a weekly sit-down with an objective stranger who doesn’t know every intimate detail of your life, can enrich your future. Or, at the base level, almost ensure you one.

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Oh, is THAT What You’re Eating?

You are what you eat. Regardless of the possession of this knowledge so many people continue to eat improperly. Poor diet may be an overall factor in American society but there’s a disproportion in the amount of overweight people which varies by race. I am of the brown race so they are who I will discuss.

The statistics* are out there. 

60% of African American men = overweight
78% of African American women = overweight 

28.8% of African-American men = obese
50.8% of African American women = obese (Hey, I gotta put on for my team.)

I think they’re accurate but wrong. Accurate because they coincide with the Body Mass Index (BMI) guidelines, but wrong because a lot of African-Americans, namely women, often have different body types and proportions than women of other cultures. Our men tend to love curves so they often don’t mind a little extra weight on us. I’ve had several men insist that I should not work out because they don’t want me to lose the thighs and derriere but just how far do we go to use these reasons to justify poor health habits?

How many of us are just overweight or obese as the result of a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet? Don’t think obesity can’t happen to you. Anybody who has a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. For me, this calculates to be 30 lbs heavier than my current weight. That can easily happen with another pregnancy or if I just stop keeping up with myself. I’ve read that excessive fat around the midsection is cause for a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease. It’s not just how much we weigh but how fat is distributed over our bodies. So, thickness in all the wrong places (and some of the right places) is bad for your health.

I walked into the doctor’s office and discovered that according to the BMI chart, I was considered overweight. I expected this because I am familiar with the chart and happen to know the desired range of weight for my height. The nurse shook his head and told me to ignore what the chart says because they expect you to be a stick. It still made me think though. If I’m over the max weight now, what does that mean for me in 10 years? I’ve been a lot smaller than my current weight in the past and I’ve also been larger. But the difference is now that I’ve passed the halfway mark of my 20’s and my body has developed into it’s full womanly shape. It is not easy getting the weight off, but I am trying.

What are you doing?

Although we know the health risks involved with being overweight and have witnessed friends and loved ones suffering from unnecessary ailments as a result of poor diet, we still don’t do anything. I LOVE food. Anybody who knows me for more than 15 minutes knows I love to eat. I love junk food and fast food just as much as the next person. Can I eat it everyday? No, I’ll die. Literally. Many of us are failing in our endeavors to drop the lbs because we snack poorly, go for hours at a time without eating, do not exercise, overeat or a combination of those things.

Few things turn me off more than a man who eats poorly and who does not exercise. I’m not expecting a health nut but show some signs of health consciousness. I understand that time plays a factor in people’s diets but everyday many of us search for ways to work smarter, why not work toward eating smarter as well? We place a lot of emphasis on what we look like but what about our internal make-up? What we put in our bodies is definitely reflected through our outward appearances and it’s like you can almost tell who’s not doing right by their bodies. Lackluster skin, dull hair, and bad breath (as a result of a low fiber diet, which can cause constipation or infrequent bowel movements, GROSS) are some of the reasons why I can’t afford to eat trash on a daily basis. This doesn’t only apply to heavy people either, thin people who have unhealthy diets are also at risk. I knew a very thin guy who had to have his gallbladder removed as the result of his awful eating habits. It was filled with black sludge.

On that note, moderation folks! Go for a walk or something.

*http://www.netwellness.org/healthtopics/aahealth/healthybody.cfm