Black Folks and Mental Health:<br />
Why Do We Suffer in Silence?

Black Folks and Mental Health:
Why Do We Suffer in Silence?

Despite devastating rates of suicide and illness, many African Americans continue without the help they need to get better

by Nia Hamm, October 01, 2012

Black Folks and Mental Health:<br />
Why Do We Suffer in Silence?

Dr. Janet Taylor & Simone Sneed.

to deal with my problems by myself,'” said Dr. Taylor.

As a childhood survivor of sexual abuse, Glennes Eggleston hardly told anyone about her trauma and the Queens, New York native did not seek help for it until she was 30 years old.

While living in Washington D.C., the weight of an emotionally abusive relationship and financial troubles took a toll on Eggleston. She was encouraged to talk to a professional so she sought free mental health treatment provided by the state. “I realized that my problem was a lot deeper than I had thought,” she said. “It was beyond the emotionally abusive relationship and beyond the childhood sexual abuse.”

Eggleston, now 36, said everything got worse when she was forced to move back in with her mother in Queens due to financial constraints and spiraled into a deep depression. “I went to the emergency room and checked myself in,” said Eggleston. “It just came to a head and I felt like I was going to either harm myself or harm my mother.”

She was diagnosed with depression and a mild case of bi-polar disorder. She began seeing a social worker and was prescribed medication by a psychiatrist. Over time her condition improved and although she still experiences symptoms, Eggleston is now employed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and is doing much better.

But Eggleston said she never felt supported by her family, including her mother (a former mental health nurse) and was even ridiculed at times. She blames the negative stigma associated with mental illness in the African American community. “I really didn’t get the support that I needed from my family, which is to this day a sticking point for me,” said Eggleston. “I also know that in the African American community depression is looked down upon.” 

This doesn’t have to continue. Dr. Taylor encourages people to educate themselves about free mental health resources, especially if they don’t have health insurance, and to utilize their health insurance for mental health services if they suspect they need help. She also wants people to know mental illness and challenges affect many people.

“As a mental health professional what we want people to understand is they don’t have to do it alone and that when you see your health care provider it’s confidential,” Dr. Taylor said.

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