Yes! A 'Black-ish' Episode That Confronts The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health In The Black Community

We are not immune from mental health challenges.

Photo credit:Photo: ABC

| January 24 2017,

02:12 am

The show black-ish never ceases to amaze me. The topics are always on point, the characters are relatable and there is a comedic undertone that makes addressing serious topics we face as Black people a little more palatable. Following the episode on the presidential elections, Wednesday's show tackled the stigma the black community places on seeing a therapist, and I couldn’t have been happier. 

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder over 10 years ago and it was something that scared me. I did not know what it meant and I didn’t have anyone that I trusted to walk me through the reality of what it means to live with a mental illness as a man. More importantly as a black man living with a mental illness. I did not understand the importance of therapy and how much it could change how I manage my symptoms.

I laughed throughout the show because the jokes were based on very unnerving truths about how we attempt to excuse mental illness and seeking therapy. The show had so many quote-worthy moments and they hit home for me because I have either used them or heard them day in and day out. 

“Bo and her therapy…Mom and I think it’s hilarious. No offense to the other crazy races, but black people have gotten along just fine without therapy and we’re not the only ones,” Dre Johnson, played by Anthony Anderson said.

Black people make up 13.2 percent of the US population. So do you realistically think that 6.8 million people are immune to mental illness? Mental health challenges have no boundaries when it comes to race, gender, or socioeconomic class. In 2013, 16% of those 6.8 million black people had a diagnosable mental illness. Thinking about how much we shy away from the topic, I’m sure that number would be higher if we felt comfortable to just admit when there’s something going on with us. In 2010, suicide was the 16th leading cause of death for blacks of all ages and the third leading cause of death for young black males ages 15–24. Suicide rates among black boys rose from 1.78 to 3.47 per 1 million from 1993 to 2012.  This is only one example of how “fine” we are doing without therapy. 

“I don’t need therapy. I’m not mentally ill” - Dre Johnson, black-ish

Like Meek Mill said, “It's levels to this.”  You don’t have to have a diagnosis or be deemed ill to see a therapist. Just like there are doctors who specialize in specific practices to deal with different physical ailments, there are also different types of therapists who are trained to work with specific issues. If you name the issue or circumstance, there is a therapist out there to meet your needs.

Remember, life is hard. Work, finances, relationships or whatever it may be, contributes to the stress that we experience daily. Over time this can wear you down and you may become mentally ill. We have to start being more preventive than reactive, and therapy can assist with that. We are recommended to have annual exams to ensure that we are physically healthy, why not make sure you are mentally healthy as well. After all, health is health.  

Do I look crazy?” - Dre Johnson

Do I look like I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, heard voices from time to time and attempted suicide three times? Just because someone doesn’t physically "look" like they are struggling, it doesn’t mean they are not dealing with some issues internally when they are home alone. Mental health does not have a look.

“So you pay two hundred dollars to sit there while they listen to you figure out your problem” - Dre Johnson

Family and friends may not always have the solutions. In many cases, it is like the blind leading the blind. Getting outside help to figure out your problem is okay.  Not all therapists require this kind of fee and insurances can help cover some of the costs associated with visiting a therapist. Therapy is simply a place to help you find solutions to your problems that you may or may not need help with identifying. There is no magic pill to cure mental illness and ensure that your mental health will always remain intact. Unlike going to a doctor for a physical ailment, seeking a professional for a mental health challenge requires you to do the heavy lifting to manage what is going on. Think of therapists acting more like personal trainers. They guide you down the right path and help hold you accountable, but you have to do the work! 

“You don’t have time to worry about your feelings. It’s food, clothing…” -Daphne Lido

Bruh, I can’t even knock this. Sometimes going to see a therapist just doesn’t make the cut on the list of priorities when you’re doing your best just to get through the week. However, ask yourself this, how can you effectively handle all of your responsibilities if you don’t take care of your mind?

Dre: “I’m a man, I was not crying.”
Rainbow: “What were you doing?”
Dre: “Cocaine.”  

This was hilarious! All too often we would rather self-medicate than admit that we have emotions and feelings. Trust me, I know. A few years ago, instead of opening up about what was going on inside of my head, I would self-medicate myself with a fifth of tequila.

Stigma hurts our community. Whether we are too ashamed to seek help or too prideful to even admit that there is a problem, our attitudes as a community on seeing a therapist, as reflected by Dre’s character, has to change. I commend black-ish for shedding some light on mental health and bringing a taboo issue right into our dinner table discussions. In the end, we have to see that therapy is not that bad after all, and maybe it’s okay to admit that we all could use a little help sometimes.

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