In Search of Healing and Hope
Drs. Ural H. Hill and Miranda M. Hill
The Harvest Magazine contributors
*This is the first installment of a series about the stigma that surrounds depression and other mental health disorders in the Black faith community.
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Life can sometimes pose challenges that can take a mental and physical toll on one’s well-being. Wellness is the balance of body, mind and spirit. Although the vast majority of people often adjust to life’s challenges, a few people do not. As a result, those persons may suffer mental or physical afflictions that manifest into depression. If that depression is severe or left untreated it can become very serious and escalate to suicidal ideations (thoughts) or even suicide.
We’ve heard many stories of African-Americans who will not take medication or seek mental health (talk) therapy from a professional mental health provider. The history of African-Americans and the health care community is wrought with examples of health disparities, unequal access and cultural insensitivity. In the 21st century we would like to think that we have reached a level of parity in treatment and service delivery whether it’s total body health and wellness or health care access. Recently, The American Health Care Act (ACA) of 2013 has created a bridge for many indigent and low income African Americans who did not have access to mental health care providers. As a result, there are over 60 million new patients who now have access to mental health treatment.
Traditionally, Depression has been identified in mankind for hundreds of years as low mood. In the 19th Century Shakespeare called it melancholy. In the 20th Century depression in the Black community was known as the Blues. A whole genre of music was created to describe this sense of despair. During the 20th Century African-Americans were segregated and there was a collective sense of discouragement. Our Community understood that the racial inequities in American Society were and injustice and that we had yet to reach equality and the pursuit of happiness. In the 1930s the whole country went through an economic depression.
Thus Depression can be a collective mood or an individual disorder. The first mental health diagnosis, “dementia” was created by the African Imhotep an Egyptian Pharoah and multi-genius who was also a father of modern medicine over 4,000 years ago. As he studied the human brain, he noticed a normal decline in memory function and awareness that accompanied old age or a head injury.
African-Americans need to know that the origins of modern medicine and psychology originate in Africa and Egypt. Since such time the American Mental Health Community, including the American Counseling Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and American Medical Association have created a way to communicate regarding both general medical conditions and mental health disorders. The fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM 5) was recently instituted on October 1, 2014 as the Standard for Mental Health Diagnosis. It represents years of research.
Today, in the 21st century, Depression or Depressive disorders include disruptive mood disorder, major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, substance/ medication-induced depressive disorder, depressive disorder due to another medical condition and other specified depressive disorder. The common feature of all these disorders is the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s capacity to function. The differences among these conditions are duration, timing, or presumed etiology. There are many foundational causes for depression. Its root causes can be situational or biochemical. However, the key phrase in the definition of it is “capacity to function”.
One sign of depression is when a person notices that their “capacity to function” has been compromised. They have a worn down feeling or they are unable to complete the tasks that they normally are able to. An individual may have negative thoughts about themselves or the future. A person’s appetite will either decrease or increase dramatically. Isolation is another symptom of depression. A person who is normally gregarious, now no longer wants to socialize. The levels of depressiveness can range from mild to severe. At the severe level, the person may have suicidal ideations and or plans to commit suicide.
*Stay tuned for the second installment in this series.