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Taking steps forward

Last week Kid Cudi came forward about his struggles with depression and his decision to check himself into rehab on his Facebook page. The world responded with an out pouring of love and support for him and honestly it got me a bit emotional. To read the comments and the tweets that people were sending out was a such a wonderful thing to see and I couldn’t help but applaud Kid Cudi for his courage. Do we still have far to go within the black community when it comes to mental health? Yes. Have we come quite a long way thus far? Eh… I want to say yes but I hesitate. If you take a look at the very beginning of Kid Cudi’s message he said that he felt ashamed… Ashamed. I felt the heaviness in that word and the weight continued through his entire message.

I don’t ever recall any white celebrities saying that they felt ashamed of their mental health. For those that struggle with depression they talk about their history with mental illness, the darkness that took over their lives and their families lives, the ways in which they coped (or didn’t); but I never remember hearing shame. You can correct me if I’m wrong of course, I won’t be upset. So why is that important? Because there is a cloud that hangs over the black community with regards to mental health. While there have been more conversations recently about taking care of ourselves in response to the racial climate that we currently live in, we still have a long way to go when it comes to being open and honest about depression, anxiety and suicide.

In many communities of color depression is a sign of weakness and anxiety isn’t a real thing and when a person opens up to their family or their community they may often be told to shake it off. “You can feel down sometimes but not depressed. Just get over it, you’ll be fine” “Depressed? People aren’t depressed they’re just crazy.” Additionally many older generations believe that you shouldn’t have people all up in your business and talking to a therapist is way too invasive into your personal life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from my family that the past is the past and you should just let it be and never bring up old stuff. Couple all of that with the complete lack of support that black and brown communities receive for mental health and it’s no surprise that many of us are not seeking out help.

And then there’s the issue of mental illness being sexist. Oh yeah! I went there. Kid Cudi received tons of love and support for coming forward but earlier this year R & B singer Kehlani was harassed on social media for attempting to commit suicide. I was so happy to see that Paper magazine did an article highlighting the disparities between the two. One of the things that the article didn’t address was how badly Chris Brown talked about Kehlani, saying that it was all a stunt to get attention. This of course lead other men on social media to give their unwarranted opinion in accordance with Chris (who also suffers from mental illness by the way). Black women continue to support and uplift black men during times of despair but we rarely see any reciprocity. I mean just take a look at the example I just gave! How many women gave Chris Brown second, third and fourth chances after being abusive and acting erratically yet he is unable to give that same support back to a female peer in her time of need.

Black women are often the ones who are expected to bear the weight of their issues and the issues of those around them without the freedom to fall or break. We are least likely to take care of ourselves when in fact self care should be our first priority. Just take at the look at the women in your family. Have you ever witnessed your mother or grandmother taking some “me time”? If you have, consider yourself lucky because that is not the norm. Many of the women in my family endured unbelievable circumstances that would rock any human being to their core but they neglected their emotional health and simply kept moving forward. Now that I am the mother of two girls I hope that I can change the dynamic and the stigma around mental health because my girls should know that they should love themselves first.

So am I happy that Kid Cudi opened up and sought help for his depression? Of course! However I can’t help but feel as though we still have more miles to cover before we can fully celebrate the day when mental illness is no longer taboo.

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