Health · Lifestyle

“Being Black Going Crazy”: My Thoughts on Faith and Mental Health in the Black Community

Lately i’ve been enjoying the amazing Black British documentaries and programming the BBC has been producing. While on iplayer catching up on the ones I’ve missed, I came across one in particular that really struck a cord with me is “Being Black, Going crazy?” (First shown on Tuesday 27th September 2016)

The documentary was inspired by the fact that Black people in the UK are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problem and to be sectioned. 

It brought me back to my university days where I first experience of depression. I put quite a lot of pressure on myself to create and maintain an unrealistic portrayal of outward success. A pressure that came from juggling my successful Nigerian parent’s view of success,  society’s view of success and the tug of war  between where I was, what I had and what I thought I needed to have and be in order to look successful. for me personally I held on to my faith in God to bring me out of my hopelessness and to keep me out of my own head.

There was a young lady in the documentary who suffered breakdowns but kept bible scriptures on her wall. she explained that there was a time where she felt she had no one so she looked unto God. At one point she confessed that her focus on her faith sometimes acted as a way for her to not deal with the reality of going to the hospital to seek for help or get the counselling and physical assistance  that may be needed. I completely related to this young lady. At the time, although I didn’t know to call what I was feeling depression as I had this subconscious feeling of never being able to feel depressed, I still didn’t open up to anyone about the way I felt because it would have felt too much like defeat.

A pastor on the show that also works within mental health and separates the two for the sake of proper practice but also joins the two together where allowed. He made a point to say that if one follows the bible correctly they shouldn’t have any mental health issues and that in his 60 years of living he hasn’t had those issues. I felt somewhat conflicted with this point. My faith is a huge part of who I am and although I agree that prayer is a very effective means of gaining peace of mind since the act of praying is to cast your worries unto God. I also know that the word of God sets us free so I understand where the pastor was going with that point.

Prayer and reading my bible definitely helped me during my bought of depression. I realised that my depression came from comparison, a heavy feeling of not being where I was supposed to be,  not being good enough and not having what I thought I was supposed to have and not knowing what I wanted to do career wise. Mind you, after getting bachelors degree in Journalism and went on to get a masters while sinking into and overcoming my depression. Physically attaining those degrees didn’t make me feel valued.

For me I found the closer I got to God and reading my bible I felt free and the weight was being lifted off daily. 

However, before I got to this point I was finding myself getting deeper into what felt like a ton of bricks on my shoulder, not wanting to wake up on the morning, wwishing i could sleep away what felt like pain. I wasn’t able to focus on my uni assignments and was contemplating getting an extention through mitigating circumstances, since a friend of mine wasn’t coping with her workload too and seemed help through a councillor. I decided to do the same. after only two sessions, I was able to get to the deeper root of a lot of my problems to even be able to get back into the word of God and start praying for myself again.  

When  it comes to faith and mental health, there is a link between the two that can be helpful in uplifting oneself. However, we must not turn a blind eye to how helpful seeking the proper help can be because those in the position to help are there for a reason. I understand how insensitive it can be to overlook mental health problems by laying strong emphasis on exorcising demons. When i was going through my depression it felt refreshing to speak to a councillor ss I didn’t feel judged, while the thought of sharing my feelings with my Nigerian parents was daunting. Although they may have been supportive,  the thought of being judged was overwhelming knowing how Nigerians can be quite dismissive of these types of subject matters and tend to use their faith as a weapon rather than a means of understanding. If  anything the battle of mental health in the black community starts with creating an atmosphere where people feel comfortable sharing how they are feeling rather than judged, shunned and demonised. 

What are your thoughts? 

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