All Articles Tagged "mental health"
May is Mental Health Month and with all the recent suicides in the Black community, Café Mocha has to address the issue of Black men and depression. Why is our community so ashamed to get help? We have a panel of young men willing to share their stories.
Plus Dr. Renee, host of ReachMD, a medical broadcast network for health professionals and our own MadameNoire bi-weekly columnist (Ask Dr. Renee), gives us her tips on getting healthy and answering the most important question: How do you know when it’s time to get help?
Did Y’all See the high school teen who graduate valedictorian with 26 university acceptance offers? Don’t miss the ladies of MadameNoire recap the week’s buzziest news on Did Y’all See on Café Mocha Radio this weekend and on the MN YouTube page.
Visit Café Mocha Radio for air times around the country and on SiriusXM Channel 141. #CMR #CafeMocha
Taking care of your mental health should always be a top priority. And a horrible work situation has the potential to put you in an emotional rut that’s difficult to overcome, especially if you’re predisposed to mental illness. Here are signs that work is affecting your psychological well-being negatively and it’s time to think about whether your job is worth your sanity.
Most fans of Hip Hop are not the least bit shocked by news that Marion Hugh “Suge” Knight Jr., former head honcho at Death Row Records, has killed someone. Some of us might even claim to have seen this coming.
And yet, for years we kind of ignored, if not excused, his erratic and often violent behavior because that’s just Suge. Folks might not want to admit it, but lots of us were entertained by Knight’s debauchery. From the story about the time he hung Vanilla Ice by the ankles off a roof until he signed away rights to “Ice, Ice, Baby,” to his most recent arrest for alleging stealing a camera from a photographer with accomplice Katt Williams, doing crazy things used to be a huge part of his appeal.
And as disgusted as I am by his actions, I do wonder if somehow Hip Hop culture, which at times seems to thrives off of hyper-masculinity and violence, kind of empowered Knight?
No, I don’t think that Hip Hop was the reason why Knight plowed into a bunch of people, killing one. That is all on Knight. But rather, how might our being entertained by Marian Knight’s erratic behavior have shielded him from getting the help that he needed? And I’m talking mentally.
This is not the first time the question of mental health in Hip Hop has been broached here. Last April, Tom Barnes penned a piece for Policy Mic, entitled “What We Should Really Be Saying About the Rapper Who Cut Off His Penis.” In case you hadn’t figured out, the essay is about Wu-Tang affiliated rapper Andre Johnson, aka Chris Bearer, who in a bout of depression fueled by drug abuse, cut his penis off and jumped out of the window.
Barnes argued then that Johnson’s suicide attempt was indicative of a culture, which celebrates mental illness. More specifically he writes:
“There is a romantic notion surrounding artists as tortured geniuses who relieve their anguish through creative expression. But when artists’ suffering shows its fullest extent and ends in tragedy, it’s not ok to be entertained. It’s time to face up to the facts about mental illness in hip-hop and treat it as the problem it really is.”
As noted in a previous piece, I thought Barnes overstated the prevalence of mental illness in Hip Hop alone. I firmly believe that Hip Hop culture is no more or less flippant about mental health than the rest of society. But after Knight’s latest violent outburst, resulting in the loss of a life, I’m really starting to see his point. And I’ll take it one step further: what if it’s the fans, who give excuse to depression, personality disorders and other unchecked mental illnesses; not only because it entertains us, but also because it feeds into narratives that Black boys and men are inherently bad and later, dangerous?
“Another theory is that African Americans don’t also subscribe to treatment. So we could be suffering for years and we won’t get help,” said Ronald Crawford, mental health professional and author of Who’s the Best Rapper? Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas?
Crawford, who also writes for Rap Rehab, said that while he wouldn’t make a diagnosis of Knight without meeting him first, the rap label boss’ behavior, as reported in the media, is consistent with an anti-social personality disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of the disorder include difficulty dealing with people, frequent trouble with the law and having little to no regard for the rights, wishes and feelings of others. Crawford added that anti-social personality disorder is a common diagnosis among people serving time in a correctional facility.
He acknowledges that Knight probably found refuge for his erratic behavior in the glorification of his image, as do other artists including Kanye West and DMX, whose erratic behavior (and in the case of DMX, actual diagnosed mental illness) is often cosigned by fans.
This is only compounded by the already fragile nature of American manhood, which frowns upon the sharing of any emotions and feelings, that could be perceived as weak. Crawford said that anger is considered a secondary emotion usually meant to protect oneself from vulnerability. And the anger we sometimes hear in Hip Hop may very well be the result of people not knowing how to express their true feelings properly. “It’s raw emotion – that is lots of what we hear. People don’t know how to say, you hurt my heart. So they say other hurtful things.”
However , Crawford is not convinced Hip Hop (or by default, the Black community) culture nurtures mental illness. Instead he points to a number of artists who have used their platforms to talk about mental health including Pharoahe Monch, who last year dropped an album about his own bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts.
In fact, Crawford said that he has felt that the raw emotion within Hip Hop has been helpful in getting some of his more difficult patients to open up about what is troubling them. “A lot of people pay attention to the misogyny and the violence in rap, but one of the things they don’t talk about is how rappers have been talking for years about fatherlessness and the impact it has on young men,” he said.
Crawford isn’t the only one who has used Hip Hop in counseling services. A couple of researchers from Cambridge University have created Hip Hop Psych, which also uses some of Hip Hop’s more positive lyrics to raise awareness about mental illness.
He also points out how often the artist’s intended message is lost when we focus only on the presentation. “I think it is a little deeper than some of the lyrics that they use. And we need to take the time to get into what they are saying and not how they are saying it,” he said.
While Crawford thinks we should be aware that an artists’ erratic behavior might be indicative of deeper issues, and that help should always be encouraged, he doesn’t believe that fans should stop patronizing their art. To do so, is like punishing people for being hurt or having mental health problems, he said.
“Is it what the artist is saying, which is upsetting you? Or are we mad at what they are going through? I think instead of shooting the messenger and getting mad at what they are talking about; let’s get mad at the conditions of what they are talking about,” he said.
You can’t always look at a person and tell they’re depressed, just ask Lissa Alicia. The 23-year old writer and PR specialist from Philadelphia said most people she meets and interacts with at the various social functions she attends for business would probably describe her as happy; only her closest friends know that she suffers from the often debilitating disease known as depression.
“I’m really good at not showing my feelings,” Alicia said about the mask she wears in public. “Me and my mom didn’t have the closest relationship. And I was able to try to pretend that I was fine and okay. I don’t like people to know how I feel all the time. I feel like it makes me feel weak. And I really don’t want to be perceived as weak.”
In the beginning stage of her career as a PR rep and journalist, Alicia believes her image is very important to her success. As such, her work often means presenting a face to the world which may not necessarily reflect how she feels on the inside. She calls it “professional happy.” And it’s the societal adherence to this cultural normal, she said, which can make us feel like we have no choice but to suffer in silence, perhaps like Titi Branch, co-founder of Miss Jessie’s hair care products, who took her own life earlier this month. Or even legendary funny man Robin Williams.
“There is lots of pressure to maintain an identity when there is so much other stuff happening inside of you,” Alicia said.
Although not officially diagnosed with clinical depression, Alicia said she first became aware that there was a name and label for what she was feeling after suffering a breakdown in high school. As a teen she had always felt frustrated, hopeless and like an outcast; however it was a terrible breakup with a boyfriend that left Alicia feeling abandoned by even her closest friends. It was a counselor who told her that she was extremely depressed and needed counseling.
Thankfully, she survived that particular incident. And though right now Alicia maintains that she’s emotionally fine, depression comes in horrible waves and when she’s in thick of it, she feels extremely helpless, alone and unimportant. Alicia likened being in a depressive state to an internal war where one side of your mind is telling you that you are worthless, while the other side is telling you that you must fight it. At times suicidal thoughts run rampant and Alicia admitted she has felt as though it would be better if she didn’t exist.
“When it’s really overwhelming. When it’s really too much, I don’t have the best techniques. I usually practice self-harm (scratching the back of her hand) or I withdraw from everyone,” she confessed. “But its not very often that it gets overwhelming. Like I said, it usually comes in cycles but I try to remind myself that it will get better.”
Despite how hard it can get for her, Alicia said she’s not interested in any type of professional therapy. “I’m not into Western medication and I just don’t feel like Western means of fixing things always work.”
Rosalyn Pitts, a child psychologist with a small private practice in Philadelphia and years of experiencing working with patients diagnosed with depression, said resistance to therapy and other supportive services within the Black community is not uncommon. In fact, while 1 in 10 people report clinical depression, it’s hard to pinpoint an actual percentage of those suffering in the Black community because we’re the least likely to report our mental health needs to medical professionals.
Pitts attributed four main reasons for this reluctance: first, there’s the stigma that surrounds mental health illnesses in general. Second is our reliance on the church and religious community, which has many believing they can pray the blues away. Third, the cost of therapy can be expensive if you don’t have insurance or have access to free counseling services. And lastly is the deeply ingrained mistrust of the medical community among African Americans thanks in part to the long history of unethical medical testing on Black people.
This resistance to therapy can also manifest itself particularly among Black women, who are often forced by society to perpetrate facades which tell the world we’re abnormally strong. “The first step and the bravest step is to admit that you can’t handle the situation on your own,” said Pitts. “You really have to take that first step to lift that veil of shame and move forward because I think one of the things that holds us hostage to these feelings is that we don’t know anybody else and we feel like we’re the only one.”
Pitts said there is a role the larger Black community can play in helping to make it easier for sufferers to seek out help, including normalizing the disease (and mental health discussions in general) and talking more openly and honestly about our feelings. “We have to instill in our kids in a young age that it is okay to seek help; that it is not a form of weakness,” she said.
The holiday season can be particularly tough for depression sufferers. Not only does the season become an awful reminder of loneliness for those who aren’t close with friends or family, it also wears on others who are mourning the loss of recently deceased loved ones. Pitts advises sufferers to avoid triggers and minimize stress, even if it means staying clear of certain family members or, if it’s too painful, the holidays altogether, and seek out people who are supportive and full of good energy. She also suggests exercise, which she says can act as a major anti-depressant.
If one’s depression gets to the point where he or she is incapable of maintaining daily activities, Pitts strongly suggests folks seek professional help. Thanks in part to the shifting public attitudes about mental health, Pitts said there are a number of easy ways for someone to access counseling services.
If a has insurance, she advises first checking with the health insurance provider to see what’s covered in network. Primary care providers are also good sources for getting references to reliable counselors who can match your comfort level. Likewise, many churches are realizing the value in supportive services and are now offering counseling in addition to their other ministries. Other traditional supportive service centers also offer free to low-cost counseling for those who are under-and unemployed.
“Our mental health is absolutely key to everything else that goes on in our lives. If we are not mentally healthy, we can’t give to and provide to for others,” Pitts said. “So just like how we want to watch our weight or what we eat or if we get enough sleep. We want to make sure we take the time to focus on our mental health too.”
Although Alicia is resistant to westernized counseling services, she said she does take time out daily to focus on her mental wellness, including engaging in activities and with people who truly make her happy. “Being around people who I am friends with; eating food that I love, things like that [are what get me through]. Most importantly, telling myself that this is not going to last. That this is just a phase.”
And despite her personal objection, she does advise people who are suffering to seek professional help if needed. For her own mental health care, Alicia has also taken up video blogging and most recently produced an entry dedicated to her depression, which she said has brought her closer to strangers and friends alike who, unbeknownst to her, also suffer from depression.
“They tell me that I really helped them and that makes me feel good. I know that people may feel like they are alone in this situation. But there are other people out there who are also experiencing it alone,” she said.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and suicidal, Pitts advises that you don’t wait or suffer in silence any longer. Instead, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline, which is available 24 hours, seven days a week at 1 (800) 273-8255.
— Eater NY (@EaterNY) November 12, 2014
On November 11, Renee Mancino, who for years owned Carrot Top Bakery in Washington Heights, shot herself in the head in front of her husband and business partner, Bob, amid health complications and the possibility of losing her storefront, reports The New York Post. It appears the beloved NYC bakery owner felt so overwhelmed, she chose suicide.
Mancino, 66, who had her bakery in the same location for 31 years was in the midst of heated rent negotiations with her landlord; her monthly rent could have risen to $15,000. Her husband said the stress was just too much for his wife.
Like Mancino, many people get so stressed out over business situations that things seem helpless. In fact, according to Missouri Department of Mental Health, businesspeople and professional are in the high risk group for suicide. “The pressures to succeed and disillusionment over unfulfilled dreams place business people and professionals at risk,” states a report by the department’s Division of Comprehensive Psychiatric Services.
“Business/financial PTSD is a big issue for entrepreneurs. To cope they must be strong mentally, physically, and spiritually. This requires being proactive and developing strength before the cliff is in front of you,” explains executive trainer Hasani X. “Because that’s what it feels like. It’s like being on a cliff 24/7. That’s bad enough, but when things really get bad you feel like you have no safety harness, no ropes, and no way out.”
And sometimes it is difficult to extract yourself from the situation, but that’s something you need to do. If you see you are being pushed to the edge mentally due to stress at work, “be honest, admit you need help, create a plan to reduce the root causes, and recognize that stress can be deadly, ” executive coach Farrah Parker explains to MadameNoire.
There are steps to take before things spiral out of control.
Focus on yourself: “Deposit more into yourself daily so that you become stronger. This will fortify you against stress and pressure. Think, meditation, exercise, connecting to purpose, and doing enjoyable things as Teflon to a nonstick pan. Nothing can stick to you,” suggests Hasani X. “Have an outlet that focuses on physical and emotional health. Whether it’s a brisk outdoor walk, yoga, or kickboxing, find a physical activity that provides solace while simultaneously improving your health,” adds Parker.
Be prepared for a crisis: “Setup rehearsed responses to stressful triggers. Psychological studies have proven that the mind can’t tell real from imagined experiences. So use this to your benefit. Use what I call Perfect Practice Therapy. Imagine the stressful scenario, but imagine yourself having a perfect response. Meaning, no stress, no fear, no worry,” says Hasani X.
Examine the stress: “Tackle the source of the stress. Strategically identify the root cause and diplomatically address it. If you feel your boss has placed too much on your plate, write an email outlining your current responsibilities and stress your commitment to doing a good job. Then carefully outline how you are unable to thoroughly meet the demands without sacrificing quality,” offers Parker.
Learn to let go: If your business is in ruins, take a hard look at the situation and future. If you have to let go, let go. “Take an honest assessment. Decide if your business is salvageable or needs to close. It’s never too late to start fresh,” concludes Parker.
If you are unable to handle the stress, reach out for professional help, talk to a trusted confidant or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Don’t bottle those feelings inside.
Claudia Jordan may appear sharp-tongued and full of sass in the new “Real Housewives of Atlanta” trailer, but the 41-year-old says that there was an extremely dark point in her life when she considered ending it all. Apparently, the Bravo freshman has been plagued with money troubles for quite some time now. Thankfully, she says that she’s now on the “upswing.”
“I definitely had money and lost it all and got it back, lost it all again and now I’m on the upswing,” she told Radar Online.
As for the source of her monetary woes, Claduia blames predatory loans.
“I was a victim of some predatory loans, and I remember I was depressed for a while to the point I was actually suicidal.”
“I hit rock bottom. I lost everything, including my real estate,” she went on. “I was very proud of buying all my real estate on my own and [then] my show got canceled, I went through a divorce, basically I lost my work,” she continued. “Everything happened at the same time and I was depressed.”
During this challenging time in her life, Claudia says that she didn’t bother working. In fact, she barely left her bedroom.
“I laid in bed for months, and honestly I didn’t work,” she admitted. “I was depressed and I fell behind.”
Things got so bad that the “Celebrity Apprentice” alumn says she began the process of filing for bankruptcy, but she never followed through with it.
“There was someone that came to me that said, ‘Hey, I can help you. I can thaw it out,’” she explained. “I paid him $10,000 and he started to file the bankruptcy proceedings, but then we never followed through with it.”
She later found a way to pay off all of her debts.
“I ended up paying off what I owed, but someone filed on my behalf and we didn’t follow through with it,” she said. “I know that’s something people like to throw in my face, but you know what, a lot of people have gone through bankruptcy.”
Claudia adds that she hopes that her story will serve as inspiration for others who may be in uncomfortable situations.
“Like I said, there’s a lot of people out there that are dealing with a lot of sadness and adversity and I want them to look to me like, ‘Wow, if she dug herself out of that hole, then there is hope for me.’”
Are you interested in seeing Claudia on the new season of “Real Housewives of Atlanta?”
It’s frequently expressed that the funniest guy in the room also tends to be the saddest. And unfortunately, in comedian Wayne Brady’s case, this was true for quite some time. In a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight. the “Whose Line Is It Anyway” actor opened up about his lengthy battle with depression and what pushed him to make a change.
“Having a bad day is one thing, having a bad week is another, having a bad life … You don’t want to move, you can’t move in the darkness,” he shared. “You’re like, ‘I am just going to sit right here and want to wallow in this. As much as it hurts, I am going to sit right here because this is what I deserve. This is what I deserve, so I am going to sit here because I am that horrible of a person.’”
He went on to share that his negative mindset morphed into a vicious cycle of negative thinking and his condition worsened.
“It starts this cycle where you tell yourself these lies … and those lies become true to you,” he says. “So, you stick to your own truth you’ve set up. ‘If I am this bad, then why should any of this matter?’ I feel at that point, you end up wanting to stop the pain.”
The actor says that he hit rock bottom last June, on his 42nd birthday.
“I was there by myself, in my bedroom and I had a complete breakdown … Just go ahead and imagine for yourself a brother in his underwear, in his room, you got snot … and that birthday was the beginning of, ‘OK, I’ve got to make a change.'”
Wayne, who knew Robin Williams personally, says that the actor’s decision to end his life last August after struggling with depression also served as a wake up call.
“It took me a while to get my stuff together to go, ‘You know what? If you’re not happy, you have to do something about it,'” he said. “Just to admit that you are feeling this way is a huge step. To claim that, to say, ‘Why do I feel dark? Why do I feel unhappy? Let me do something about this.'”
Thankfully, Wayne is now on the road to recovery and he credits his ex-wife, Mandie Taketa, for helping him. Together, they co-parent their 11-year-old daughter, Maile.
Follow Jazmine on Twitter @JazmineDenise.
Life happens when you least expect it and all of a sudden your world is upside down. We often face the big things back-to-back and right when you can’t take another thing, the small things come too. Your contacts rip or you lose your wallet and it all starts to feel like quick sand. You can’t find relief and every move you make only seems to bring you deeper in the pit. Even in the midst of turmoil, you can still keep it together and not fall apart.
- Take a nap & Breathe
We sit up sometimes losing sleep and not eating worried about things we can’t change by worrying about them. Sometimes the solution is to take some deep breaths and take a nap. The problem is going to be there when you wake up but sometimes you have to step back, relax, and face it when you are rested. It’s not avoiding your problems to know when you can’t handle something at the moment. To keep from falling apart you may need to take a step back.
- Decide what you can control and what you cannot, then let it go
You cannot control someone being ill or passing away. You’ll need to deal with that hurt then let it go. You can control over spending on your budget and finding yourself in a financial sticky place. Let it go that you messed up this time and do better the next. Deciding what you can and can’t control is a key to not falling apart. Don’t beat yourself up for where you messed up something within your control. Don’t make yourself sick worrying about something you cannot change. Life is a process of breaking and putting back together. Pick up whatever pieces you can and move forward.
- Remember you can cry
The strong superwoman/superman myth will have you believing that you can’t cry or feel what’s going on at the moment. That is false. It is okay to cry, to hurt, to be angry, to regret, to be uncomfortable. All of those emotions are okay to have as long as you don’t live there too long. Don’t let the emotions drown you and paralyze you. Give yourself time and then get up and start following suggestion #2. Remember it’s an ebb and flow and some days you’ll feel stronger than others but strength does come and you do eventually get through it. Seek help, friends, prayer and/or counseling on the really hard days.
- You’ve survived before
Remember that time in the past you thought it was so hard and difficult and you’d never get through it? And here you are, living through it. The same thing will happen this time. Every time you feel like falling apart remember that you have survived and thrived before and although this feels like the end of the world, it isn’t.
- Make Moves & Be Still
You can’t fix it all today but that’s no excuse to not do anything. As the saying goes, “do what you can with what you have where you are.” After you’ve given yourself space to cry and feel – get busy taking even the smallest steps to remedy your situation. When there is nothing you can do, be still. Don’t worry yourself frantically trying to do a whole lot without thinking it through. Sometimes the best course of action is to be still.
Hard times build tough people. When you are tempted to fall apart at the thought of all that you are enduring, take a breath, decide what you can control, cry, remember you’ve survived before and move forward. You can get through this no matter how dark it seems or how long it takes. On the other side of this, you’ll step back and realize you are impressed with yourself and how amazing you truly are afterall.
Dee Rene is the author and creator of Laugh.Cry.Cuss. @deerene_ @laughcrycuss
Dr. Sherry Blake is known for setting Traci, Towanda, Trina, Toni, and Tamar straight about all their mess on the “Braxton Family Values,” but the celebrity therapist’s expertise doesn’t stop there. We caught up with the clinical psychologist during the Essence Festival fourth of July weekend and we asked her to apply some of her knowledge to celebrity couples whose marital woes have been in the news on a regular these days. Though Dr. Blake didn’t want to get too far into these couples’ personal business, she did impart some advice that’s useful for any romantic pair to keep in mind if they want to have a healthy relationship.
Check out what Dr. Sherry said in the interview above about maintaining positive unions and mental health issues in the African American community. What do you think?
Depression is so much more than feeling a little blue. But because no one likes to talk about the big “D,” a lot of people don’t even realize that their struggle is more than real.
You Will Feel Judged
Mostly because some people still treat depression like it’s not a real disease. Judging someone with depression is no different than judging someone with diabetes. Don’t let their lack of education shame you into not getting help. Not everyone is misinformed.