You Gotta Let It Out, Tasha!

Source: Creative Commons

I haven’t shared much of my TV show preferences on this blog, but last night’s episode of Power brought up some crucial points about mental health. Warning – there are some SPOILERS from this point on for those of you who keep up with the show!

There’s a scene where Tasha and Ghost attend a church counseling group meeting after tragically losing their daughter Raina (at the hands of her crazy, selfish twin brother Tariq – but I will save that for another post!). During the meeting, parents in the group are expressing their thoughts and feelings in response to the death of a loved one. It seems like everyone in the group has lost a child one way or another. Anyway, Tasha musters up the courage to speak on what she’s been going through only to be denied by her husband, who quickly stops her before she could utter a word. Once they reach the house, she vents her frustration on him about not being able to have someone to talk to regarding her daughter’s death.

The Stats are Screaming at Us

Here’s the thing, minus the dramatics of the tv show, Tasha’s frustration is VERY real and not talked about enough in the mental health community and among minorities. There’s always been this stigma about seeking mental health being a sign of weakness. Here are some more disturbing facts:

• African Americans are 20% more likely to experience mental health episodes in comparison with the rest of the population – this is often because of unmet needs towards their mental and emotional health
• African American women are more likely to experience physical symptoms directly related to a mental health issue
• One in 5 people are affected by mental illness – including those who don’t talk about it or are simply unaware of their condition
• When it comes to violence, African American children have been shown to have more exposure, which leads to mental health conditions that often go untreated

The Deadly Stigma

There is definitely a lack of understanding when it comes to mental health among African Americans. This is mainly because of fear, shame, stigma and even religious reason – they see mental health episodes as a “punishment from God”. Because of this mindset, the signs and symptoms of a mental health or emotional problem often go unnoticed.

On the other end of the spectrum, some providers don’t identify with the needs of African Americans when it comes to mental health. This is why the church group for grieving parents was a great idea, but when it comes to care from an actual provider, there is still a level of ignorance and neglect in terms of what African Americans actually need to heal from a traumatic situation.

So what will happen with Tasha since she’s not able to get the care her and her family desperately need after such a tragic loss? It’s only a tv show but it should cause you to think in terms of reality; there are a lot of black mothers, sisters, aunts and wives who are bottling up A LOT and have no outlet whatsoever. When it goes untreated, blocked thoughts and feelings produce disease and dysfunction, which is the last thing we need more of in this day and age.

Help is Out There

As far as the show goes, I hope Tasha ends up being able to talk to someone. She has every right to…for the sake of her mind and the well-being of her scattered family. This goes for every black woman out there who is struggling to hold it down one way or another, find a way to let it out.
For more information on African Americans and mental health, go here.

If you’re really struggling with self-worth, you can:

• Seek assistance for your Employee Assistance Program at work – their services are usually FREE
• Call the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline at 800-950-NAMI
• There is a network of therapists that specialize in dealing with black women. Check the directory and see if you can get connected with someone to help you.