Religion can be a source of strength for the black community, but it can also be detrimental when used to fix a serious mental health problem. The ratio of whites seeking help in comparison to blacks that are suffering is disproportionate and only proves that black people fail to view mental illness as a serious issue that needs professional help.
Faith and spirituality can be healing for the soul, but when not supplemented with medical expertise, can be toxic to our physical body. Religion is not the answer, medical treatment is.
Just one-quarter of African-Americans seek help compared to 40 percent of whites, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The reluctance to seek mental health treatment is a result of the historical prejudice and discrimination found in the healthcare system. Cases such as Henrietta Lacks, a deceased, African-American cancer patient who had her cells unknowingly used for medical research, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments and a CDC study of experimental MMR vaccines, in which black women’s likelihood of having a child with autism greatly increased, illustrate this.
Religion can be used as a way to aid in psychological healing, but it has limits. Religion emphasizes community and emotional support that can be difficult to find outside of the community. Black Americans appear attached to the comfort of the church and the relationship they may have with their pastor, but they fail to understand that their relationship will not do as much healing as psychiatric help would. Medical advancements such as the array of medications and counseling options open to the public have made treatment easier; black people just need to take the necessary steps in seeking professional help.
Religion is used as a system to give strength and support, which often turns people away from seeking psychiatric help. There are some black people that will use spirituality and faith in God as a method to heal their mental and emotional torment, despite medical and therapeutic help being necessary for their condition. Faith can have little to no effect on the health of our mind, so it should not be our only solution.
According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, mental illness is an epidemic in which black people are 20 percent more likely to experience a serious mental health condition than the general population. They are also at risk of developing certain factors that would increase the risk of developing a mental illness. A black person has a higher chance of being exposed to violence at a younger age and subsequently developing depression, PTSD, ADHD or an increased risk of death by suicide. The black community needs to focus on fixing the problem through proven means that work, relying less on faith for guidance.
Mental health is colorblind; anyone can be inflicted, so it’s imperative that we seek help beyond our faith. Black people suffering from a mental illness should be encouraged to seek professional medical help because the suffering won’t stop until we put religion aside.
McLean is an English junior from Houston.