Lets face it, we all have that person in our family that is, well a "little off". We all have that Uncle Johnny who seems to out of place with the family. He is teased by the younger members of the family for his oddness and shunned by the family elders for not being "right". In reality, Uncle Johnny has a serious mental illness that the family refuses to recognize. This past week, the nation once again became witness to the mass shooting caused by someone with a severe case of mental illness. It has also sparked another debate upon whether or not there should be a mental test given before someone is given a firearm. Though I am in support of such a measure, I do not believe that it will significantly help the situation. The reason why is simple: mental illness is not a priority care, such as medical, dental and vision, especially in the African American community.
Every year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) releases a facts and numbers report that shows how mental illness impacted the American landscape in the past year. In 2013, one in four adults, approximately 61.5 million Americans, experienced some sort of mental illness; while, one in 17 (about 13.6 million) lived with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder. What makes matter worse was that African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services about one-half that rate of whites.
Though the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or as it is commonly known, Obamacare, does provide basic coverage for those suffering with mental illness, it does not help to change the American mindset toward the issue. Each year, most Americans will get a physical, dental and vision exam to ensure that their bodies are in top condition. But not many seek a yearly mental exam to ensure that their minds are in top condition. The stigma in our community seems to belittle those who seek mental treatments. Many of us have even subjected it to being just a "white person disease".
We as community have a lot to change and our views on mental illness must be a major priority. Yes it is great that we go to our friends or even our religious leaders when we feel a little down and out. But we must come to grips that we as a community need to go seek help from professionals who are certified and educated to handle mental illness. I truly believe in the power of prayer, but I also believe in James 2:14-26 that "faith without works is dead". So once you finish going to God in prayer, go to Dr. Jesus, Psy. D. and get some help! #ijs