By Asten Cosby
Mental illness, mainly depression, is one of those things that is completely swept under the rug or ignored in the Black community. Why? I feel that it’s because Black people feel as if we have to live up to this standard of being almost flawless, just to prove to others that we are as strong as we say we are. However, your mental health isn’t something that you should ignore. I have put together some tips to help you figure what it is you may be going through and what you can do to help yourself get better.
1. Get your emotions out. If you have things that are bothering you, don’t be afraid to vent to someone. Even if it’s just little things. If you aren’t comfortable talking to someone, take the time to just write out your frustrations. I’ve been doing this for years and I love going back and seeing what I wrote in the past and realizing how far I’ve gotten.
2. Assess your emotions. Figure out what you may be dealing with. I’m not telling you to self diagnose and claim something that may not be true, but if you feel like you really haven’t been yourself and you think that it may be an issue, take the time to find yourself. Research your symptoms.
3. If needed, seek professional treatment. This is the part that most people don’t understand. Seeking out help doesn’t make you weak, or a wimp. In fact, getting help at the right time can definitely help save your life.
4. Understand that you aren’t alone. Even if you feel like you are, you’re not alone. Being around positive people who may not understand what you’re going through, but understands that you are going through something makes the journey a little easier.
5. Prayer. This is a well-talked about cliché and it’s often controversial. Black people always seem to neglect mental illness and tell people to “just pray about it.” I am not, by any means, saying that prayer is the only way to fix things, but I found that when I was dealing with depression, my relationship with Christ became stronger. That was mainly because I didn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling, and I wrote everything out instead. Anyway, finding a higher power to believe in, even if it isn’t God, helps because it’s like you’ve found a reliable friend.
In addition to overcoming depression, we also have to know how to maintain our mental state. Once you have made progress in overcoming your struggles, it can be really easy to backslide, so here are some tips to insure that you continue to progress and stay on the right track.
1. Keep good company. Keep yourself around positive people who have good hearts. The saying “Misery loves company” is all too real and negativity can really be detrimental to your progression.
2. Self-affirm. Tell yourself that you won’t let depression get the best of you anymore. Live your best life and love the life you live. I used to look in the mirror everyday and tell myself “You got this, Asten.” Tell yourself the same thing.
3. Don’t stress yourself out. All the stress you may place on yourself can cause you to slip back into a depressing state. You may find yourself feeling as if you aren’t good enough to do certain things and disappointing the people around you. Tell people “no” sometimes. I know it may suck if you’re like me and love helping others, but saying “no” to one thing is saying “yes” to another. If the people you’re saying “no” to understand you, they won’t be upset and understand why you’re saying “no.”
4. Relax. Take some time to yourself. Treat yourself. Go to the library or sit in your room and read books. Go cloud-watch. Grab some coffee and people watch. My personal favorite is sitting outside and coloring. Whatever is the most relaxing activity for you, do it. I promise, you’ll feel so much better afterwards.
For those who may be dealing with depression, know that you are not alone. There are many resources you can utilize, like the ones I have tagged below.
National Suicide Hopeline (800.784.2433)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800.273.8255)
Help Finding a Therapist (1-800-THERAPIST (1-800-843-7274)
The National Institute of Mental Health (1-866-615-6464)