Mental Health: Shhhh don’t tell nobody, not even my Damn Self, somebody got a problem!!!

Mental Health: Shhhh don’t tell  nobody, not even my Damn Self, somebody got a problem!!!


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                  “Cra Cra in our community”
 By Regina Geames
 It still remains our untold secret! Mental Illness. There I said it. How do I feel about it?
No, how do you feel about it? How do they feel about it? Who the Hell cares about it? Certainly
it is not you and sure as hell not them. Truth be told nobody cares so why should I. I’ll just put
me and my Mental Illness back in the bottom of the box, in the back, in the corner in the dark.
Until it rears its head, then oh hell, watch out, it’ll be everybody’s problem then. Who I’m
foolin’? Still my problem, not my problem, I don’t have a problem! This is crazy. Shhhh don’t tell
nobody, not even my Damn Self, somebody got a problem!!!

This is how it’s played out in the minds of those/us, misdiagnosed, not diagnosed,
suffering in silence, the pain covered up, the stress not spoken of, the despair, depression,
isolation and suicide hidden! Why? Could it be the lack of trust in the medical system; Cultural
differences; Problems accessing care; Lack of knowledge about the importance of tests to
screen for major health problems; For some diseases, genetics may contribute; Poverty and
mental health are correlated; poorest see our pain as “par for the course” and don’t speak
about it; or is mental health just elusive for African Americans whether wealthy or financially


I have much respect for my brothers and how Mental Illness affects them. I realize that
as a family, yes, we are family, how it affects us. Right now I need to have the ears of my Sistas.
You’ll understand later. I’ll begin by sharing the statistics as it has been shared with us. This is
only the stats shared (there’s always those numbers that didn’t make the report –another
story). African American women, according to a six-week outpatient program at Laurel Hospital
focused on the stigma of mental illness (brought on by stress) in the Black community. “Most of
them could not reveal to any member in their family what they were doing because the stigma
is so deep and tall and wide.”


Julianne Malveaux a Washington, D.C- based economist and writer, President Emerita of
Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. stated, “There are few that will hear a Black
woman in a Black community, strumming her pain, questioning her faith.” According to the
National Associations of Mental Health more than 4% of African Americans have considered
suicide. Most of them are African American women. Recent research indicates that mental
health plays a role in health disparities of African American women who have the highest
mortality rate for heart disease, stroke, highest prevalence of high blood pressure and obesity.
Ummmm. So what do “they” say are some of the underlying issues of why my African
Women Sistas are not being diagnosed properly; thus not receiving proper treatment? Shall we
read on? According to the May 2014, 24 (5) Qualitative Health Research African American
Women’s Beliefs, Coping Behaviors, and Barriers to Seeking Mental Health Services abstract,
“Little is known about African American women’s beliefs about mental illness. In this qualitative
study, the Common Sense Model (CSM) was examined: African American women’s beliefs
about mental illness, coping behaviors, barriers to seeking treatment, variations in beliefs,
coping, and barriers associated with aging. Fifteen community-dwelling African American
women participated in individual interviews. Dimensional analysis, guided by the CSM, showed
that participants believed general, culturally specific, and age related factors can cause mental
illness. They believed mental illness is chronic, with negative health outcomes. Participants
endorsed the use of prayer and counseling as coping strategies, but were ambivalent about the
use of education.


Treatment seeking barriers included poor access to care, stigma, and lack of awareness
of mental illness. Few age differences were found in beliefs, coping behaviors, and barriers.
What surprised me most about this study was the numbers used to create the study: “Fifteen
community dwelling African American women.” Really!? While I’m sure numbers can and often
times do lend clarity and truths to matters, sometimes (most times) we should and need to go
beyond what is right before us. So I begin with myself. I wholeheartedly believe that we must
begin with ourselves, asking those hard questions and then answering them truthfully. Am I
stressed? Yes. Do I feel isolated sometime s? Yes. Do I believe my stress is culturally related? Yes.
Do I believe my stress is societal related? Yes. Do I believe there are health disparities such as
ill-equipped medical practices; diversity; lack of health care and access; education and urgency
surrounding Mental Illness? Yes. Do I believe that there is a long inherited negative stigma
attached to Mental Illness? Yes. Do I believe this stigma is a direct result of the brainwashing
that the brutal treatment of African Americans by white Americans was/is our faults due to us;
and because of that, our feelings, emotions and pain are not real and are not to be taken
seriously, spoken of or treated? YES! Do I believe we’re expected to show up, with amazing
dignity, ignoring the massacre of our sons or daughters with well-modulated composure and
not experience Mental Trauma? YES! Do I believe that white Supremacist America believes it is
in the best interest to keep African American women in the bondage of Mental Illness and,
therefore, is part of the systematic approach to keep, in the words of Julianne Malveaux,
“Mental Illness is Our Dirty Little Secret?” Yes! Let’s look closer at the numbers to understand
the urgency needed of my Sistas and the nation’s attention of the effects of Mental Illness
concerning African American Women. A recent study showed African American Women
experiences of death related illness brought on by stress is increasing yearly.
This epidemic is depleting communities of Healthy Families Resources—Healthy, Happy,
Ingenious Women. It’s important to understand these numbers broken down.
According to the Black population in Rochester, New York:


Black Females population 52.3%
Black Females householder, no husband present 35.3%
Black Females householder no husband w/children under 18 years 24.9%
Female householders 20.2% Black Female high school graduate or higher 75.3%
Black Female Bachelor’s degree higher 12.4%


These numbers you can believe are only in part, and the real numbers are higher and are not in
our favor! What do these numbers mean? In totality it shows us that Mental Illness is a “Silent
Killer” of our precious commodity: African American Women. It shows us that while our African
American brothers have a significant role in the makeup, the providing, the sustaining of our
families, it is our African American Sistas that currently are forging (building/creating) our
families destinies. It shows that if we sit idly by and let this epidemic go untreated, our African
American families will fall into the depths of despair that we will be unlikely to recover. I am
under the complete knowledge that Mental Illness is not to be looked at as a sympathy issue;
this is a policy issue—a Human issue. Mental Health is not an embarrassment; it is a national
health issue. It is a silent killer; dare I say a gentrification issue that we have yet to
acknowledge? YES!! As an ultimate Encourager I cannot nor will I leave you with such dismal
words and seemingly without hope. One of my all-time favorite Woman in the world, Dr. Joy
DeGruy says, “Women increase their Wellness when they are in the company of other healthy
women.” In spite of popular belief, African American women do love and support one another!
It has been and continues to be our “Best kept Secret” and what sustains our African American


Many programs, such as what I offer, B.H.E.I.R.S., bring awareness, educate, encourage,
empower, and offer self help and support and resources that creates an urgency of lifestyle
changes to improve the Wellness among women of the Black Diasporas. The face of
depression/stress among women of the Black Diaspora in America is pain that keeps so many
locked in unnecessary despair and isolation. Depression/Stress is a fact of life, but it doesn’t
have to be a curse. We don’t have to be ashamed to admit it. Those who are celebrities to
regular working folks like you and me daily share in this condition.
The Good News is, “That we enjoy Good Health and that All goes well with us, even our

Go Tell That!


Regina Geames, Visionary Creator, BHEIRS
Regina can be reached at



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