Minority Women and Mental Health
Posted 10/8/2012 2:32:00 PM

Lark Voorhies is denying allegations that she is bipolar. The "Saved By the Bell" star's mother told People magazine that her daughter is suffering from the disorder. "There are things that have traumatized her," Lark's mother, Tricia Voorhies, said. "I care deeply about my daughter and I want her to resume her life."  Lark denies that anything is wrong with her. In her chats with People, Lark would often stop talking mid-sentence as she stared off. Sometimes, the magazine reports, she would also mumble to herself. Lark explained that she's got "a strong spiritual sense ... You caught me in moments of pray [sic]."

I read the article and it was really sad. Sad because Lark has had some career and relationship drama. Sad because I think the magazine did not have to exploit some of her struggle in the moment. And sad because if she is in denial, she is denying herself the ability to live a full life.

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week. It’s the time to learn about symptoms of various types of mental illness, treatment, lifestyle changes and create a dialogue about it. 1 in 5 adults will suffer from a mental illness in any one given year. Major depression, anxiety disorders, bi-polarism and schizophrenia. 1 in 17 live with a mental illness on a daily basis. But guess where the disparity for diagnosing and treatment happens?

In minorities, for example, black people account for approximately 25% of the mental health needs in this country though they only make up 11- 12% of the national population And Lark, as a woman of color, is an example of black women and mental health. While education and opportunity has helped us achieve successful careers, black women still find themselves lagging behind our sisters of other races in health and mental health care. For example, the depression rate among black  women is estimated to be almost 50% higher than that of other women.

In an article, “Black Women and Mental Health”, By George Leary, M.S., he addresses this issue further, saying, “The rates of mental health problems are higher than average for Black women because of psychological factors that result directly from their experience as Black Americans. These experiences include racism, cultural alienation, and violence and sexual exploitation. To improve ones mental health, Black psychologists and other mental health professionals agree that spirituality is a necessary concept in healing. Emphasizing spirituality creates attitudes that embrace hope and positivity.”

Other keys listed for optimal mental health include:

Know Thyself. A healthy identity is critical for overall good mental health. For women of African descent, this means seeing themselves as the recipients of generations of collective wisdom and experience from African and African American culture.

Use Social Supports. Using social networks found in the family, neighborhood, church, temple and community is how Black women seek healing through others with similar experiences. Currently, many independent support groups for Black women are being created around the country.

Build Self-Confidence. This comes from action. Those who put forth effort to achieve their positive ambitions must overcome fear and work hard. Regardless of how successful we are in the end, it is our determination and sense of control that gives us confidence in self.

Recognize Symptoms. No two people experience mental disorders in the same manner. Symptoms will vary in severity and duration among different people. For example, while feelings of worthlessness is a common symptom of depression in White women, changes in appetite is cited as a common sign of depression for Black women.

Develop an Attitude of Optimism. Those who think positively are greatly immune to the stress and feelings of depression common in everyday life.

And let me add: don’t be ashamed if you need help. Taking medicine you may need doesn’t make you less Christian, less of a person or anything! If you had a tumor you’d treat it, right? Mental illness requires help so get it. Also, if you suspect you don’t feel right, then go to the doctor for screening. You may find a lifestyle change is needed, hormonal levels or a thyroid issue may be to blame versus a mental illness. No matter what, equip yourself with knowledge, risk factors and prevention methods to deal with mental illness. We never know when someone we love – including ourselves – will deal with mental illness. Be prepared to fight. It’s a fight worth fighting.



Posted By: Julee Jonez  

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