Every two seconds somebody Googles ‘depression’ in the UK and whilst in recent years we have seen a transformation in attitudes towards talking about mental health, I am part of a community where silence remains golden.
Mental health conditions such as depression are looked at as a form of weakness in the Black community; a thing you “just work through it” on your own. Depression is also perceived as a “white man disease/problem”. It is a running joke amongst Africans that depression is what people use to get out of work. This type of mentality has been passed down from generation to generation making it difficult for African children to speaks up if they believe they are suffering from depression. These negative perceptions have played a significant role in our attitudes towards mental health.
I am passionate about changing the perception of mental health in the black community because I have witnessed the negative impact the culture has on us.
To the outside world I come across as a very positive individual, someone that encourages others to see the bright side of every dark cloud. Majority of time that is truly who I am, however there remains a part of me not many people are aware of.
If you’ve read the about me page which seriously needs updating you might know that I had a health scare that literally changed my life. Without rehashing the details, I went through a traumatic experience which resulted in me having to take a year out of my studies to rehabilitate.
After having a health scare I became extremely anxious about life and struggled with a number of negative thoughts. I was living in a state of constant fear, although I was lucky enough to have a supportive family who tried their best to make sure I was ok, I struggled to open up to them.
Anxiety can be triggered by many different reasons but trauma is one of the most common factors associated with it. When something traumatic occurs it can take the body a long time to readjust. It is common for individuals that have gone through traumatic events to experience flashbacks as their mind tries to make sense of the trauma.
In my case, after being discharged from the hospital whenever I had to attend an outpatient appointment, I often relived the experience of been admitted in an ambulance and the emotional distress of the experience would occur again. This was very difficult for me as I simply wanted to move on with my life, however I struggled with the idea that things could never go back to how they were.
I found it difficult to share those thoughts with my family because I wanted to desperately be the brave person they had coached me to be.
On several occasions my siblings would ask me how I felt and I would simply give a positive answer. I did this mainly because I didn’t want to disappoint them but this was to my own detriment as when I broke down, I did this alone.
My now husband was pretty much the only person I was honest about my feelings with and this was simply because he would drag the truth out of me. There’s no getting anything past him, he is really good at asking probing questions.
In my recovery, I leaned heavily on my faith, I would read scriptures that talked about fear and the mind. I found it comforting and believe it was effective in helping me to move past the constant state of anxiety.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7
At the time, I did not consider seeking professional help as that wasn’t something I thought Christians do. I thought that to speak to a professional would mean that I didn’t have enough faith in God. I now know that this perception is flawed, in my opinion faith and professional help when tailored is more effective.
Like myself, many in the black community are highly religious and known to rely on religious leaders for help when going through difficult times. While prayers are comforting and effective, some religious leaders are currently not equipped to advice or treat mental health conditions.
I have been working with my project partner Blessing Oyebanji on a documentary focused on capturing and challenging the perception of mental health in the Black community.
The aim of the the documentary is to raise awareness and inform the Black community about the importance of mental health, through sharing real life stories of individuals who had experienced challenging mental health. We aim to contribute to changing the perception and narrative amongst Black community and remove the stigma surrounding seeking professional help. The documentary explores the relationship between faith and mental health. Our goal is to promote solutions to equip leaders in the Church to support members with challenging mental health.
In a community where many frown on sharing their problems with the world, it is difficult to get people to share their experiences of mental health on camera. We have successfully found willing participants across the UK with insightful stories which we believe will convey a strong message and have a positive impact on viewers.
To successfully execute our vision we need your support, so far we have purchased and rented equipment to kick start the documentary, however we will not be able to self fund the rest of the documentary and would appreciate your support in finishing what we’ve started.
We believe this documentary has the potential to drive a much needed change within our communities.
Please click the link below to donate to the project.