It’s no secret that in the Black community it’s taboo to speak openly about psychological distress. Despite the fact that 16 percent of us have a diagnosed mental illness, there's still a general consensus that mental disorders can be prayed away, ignored, or soothed via self-medication.
For a varied number of reasons, Blacks have a more pronounced version of mental illness compared to their white counterparts. Socioeconomic inequality, racism, PTSD (Blacks are more likely to be victims of violent crimes), and the number of our fellow Black citizens who are incarcerated all add to the stress of everyday Black life. For many, these factors contribute to mental health issues.
In addition to the stress of just being Black in America, many mental health professionals lack the “cultural competence” to treat Black patients who often display forms of microaggressions during therapy sessions.
The three apps below help confront mental illness in our community, but are in no way shape or form meant as a substitute for seeking a qualified mental health professional if help is needed.
Operating System: Android and IOS
User: Diagnosed mental illness or known depression
MoodTools has many proverbial tricks in its magic hat for diagnosing (unofficially) and combating depression. Users can jot down their thoughts in a thought diary and submit them for analysis in order to identify negative thinking patterns. They can answer questions to help determine symptom severity, develop a suicide safety plan, play mood boosting games and activities, and read and watch research aimed to help combat negative feelings and emotions.
2. NIH Depression Info
Operating System: Android
User: Recently diagnosed
The National Institute of Health app contains many resources on symptoms, causes, and treatment of mental illness. If you have been recently diagnosed, or aren’t sure yet if you have a mental disorder, the Depression Info app can help. What it lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for in solid, trustworthy, information about depression from a reliable source. If you are scared to take the first step towards seeking help, or aren’t sure if you need to, this is a good place to start before contacting a professional. Research is invaluable, and even post diagnosis, the articles found here can prove helpful to someone who suffers from depression.
3. Positive Activity Jackpot
Operating System: Android
User: Experiencing a funk or major blues
One of the hardest things people with depression face is working up the nerve to go outside. The need to crawl under a rock and hide from humanity can often be hard to resist for those suffering from depression. Behind this app sits a therapy called Pleasant Event Scheduling, which is a method used to fight depression. Users virtually pull the lever on a jackpot, and what arises are suggestions for local activities that the user can do. Although not a substitute for seeking professional help, getting out is often the best medicine. The app even provides the option to call friends and invite them on the selected activity. Through the use of sheer FUN, Positive Activity Jackpot helps users overcome the blues and get outside where they can engage socially and have fun with others!
The apps above all display cool ways to fight depression. However, they are no substitute for seeking medical assistance if you believe you have a mental disorder. Although it may take some research, trial and error, finding a professional who is a good fit can be the difference between leading a productive life versus living in sadness and fear. Don’t be afraid to take those first steps.
Elizabeth Aguirre is a digital writer and project manager living and working in Chicago, Il. When she's not tweeting about social justice issues, she can be found meditating or blogging at cultureofthechi.com. She's on a one-woman mission to digitally empower people and small businesses. He daughter, Esther, supports her mission.