Sadly, mental health is simply not a priority at any level— local, state, or national.
In this country, the communities most in need of mental health services are denied care because of systemic bias and indifference.
The stark reality of America’s mental health crisis never hits home quite so hard as when illness affects someone close to us. We may read mountains of books on the subject, talk to mental health professionals, even work in the field of medicine—but nothing can truly prepare us for the emotional toll of seeing a loved one suffer.
My mother was active, healthy, and independent before she was found on a flight of stairs, exposed to the elements, after suffering a stroke on a frigid February night. She broke her vertebrate and ended up paralyzed. I was traumatized. It is frustrating and heartbreaking to witness the abuse my mother goes through because of her illness, the lack of professionalism or basic human empathy she receives, even in her deteriorated state.
Sadly, mental health is simply not a priority at any level—local, state, or national. In this country, the communities most in need of mental health services are denied care because of systemic bias and indifference. Black and brown people are disproportionately affected by the woeful underfunding of vital mental health resources and a dearth of services, rooted in the sordid legacy of white supremacy.
It is then no surprise that people from disaffected communities are the least likely to seek or retain mental health services, even though African Americans are 20 percent more likely than the general population to experience serious mental health problems and more likely to be exposed to factors such as homelessness and violence that increase the risk for developing mental health conditions, according to the US Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. One in four Black Americans will experience a mental disorder at some point. If people from the Black community would seek out treatment, they would learn that the human mind fundamentally rewires itself to cope after prolonged periods of stress. This can damage the brain, causing disturbing flashbacks, insomnia, emotional numbness, angry outbursts, and feelings of guilt or responsibility. These symptoms, when experienced without context or understanding, can leave us confused, angry, or withdrawn. Only by understanding the root cause of these symptoms can we begin the healing process.
Dealing with these symptoms head-on can be overwhelming, and many people choose to ignore the problem at all costs. I experienced the utter uselessness of the options presented to me while pursuing care within the American system, in which bureaucratic inefficiency and systemic bias appear to be the norm for my demographic (a plethora of studies affirm this fact). Is it any wonder people are not fully invested in their recovery?