People of Color Deal With Mental Illness, Too

I wrote my first article for the Huffington Post where I discuss my photo project. 

Here is an excerpt:

The media representation of mental illness constantly excludes, ignores and silences people of color. White women are stereotypically the face of mental illness. There are media representations like Blanche of A Streetcar Named Desire, Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight and even more recently, Carrie in Homeland, and Pat and Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook. Even when it comes to the news reports of these tragic shootings recently, when it is a white male there is the immediate speculation that he is mentally ill. Yet, when Black or Latino men commit crimes, they are just that: criminals. 

There is a stigma that is rampant in our society towards mental illness. Yet it is worse for communities of color. Mental illness doesn't discriminate but people do. People of color in the United States battle with microaggressions, cultural/religious/ language barriers, and negative stereotypes. That compounded with a mental illness is debilitating. White individuals do not deal with the issues we face. 

As people of color, we are proud individuals who have accomplished a lot despite the obstacles that we have faced. We don't need another reason for people to ostracize us and treat us differently. We are not supposed to air our dirty laundry. But we have a larger problem in our hands that is more important than saving face. We are losing countless individuals due to the silence and shame that contributes to the high suicide attempt and success rate. I do want to be clear: I am in no way blaming these communities. The invisibility of people of color in this discussion is to blame. How can we destigmatize this in our community if we are never shown in its representation? Being witness to the killings of Travon Martin, Eric Garner, and Tanisha Anderson, takes it's toll. How can the mental health of people of color be made a priority in our communities when we are constantly shown that our lives don't matter, that we can be killed senselessly, that justice won't be served?

The health disparities and the lack of resources being made available to our community is a huge part of it as well. Cultural competency is lacking immensely. Simply translating resources and information is not enough. It is not cognizant of people's different cultural identities. In my experience, working with groups and organizations that focus on mental illness, I am told that they want to be inclusive when I bring up a support group for solely people of color or that amplifying the voices of people of color are their priority right now. The advocacy that is needed to heal our community is different.

Read the full article here.

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