Mental Health: Depression In The African American Community

According to the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, the prevalence of depression among African American men ranges from 5% to 10%[i]. Though they face many risk factors, their use of mental health services is low. Why is this?

 

Here at The Exam Room with Nurse Alice, we had a chance to catch up with Royce Da 5’9, Grammy-award-winning rapper. We discuss his launch of The Ryan Montgomery Foundation which seeks to assist those in need of mental health care. Click HERE to catch his interview.

 

So, why are mental health issues, specifically depression, perceived as a weakness amongst African American men? We are so used to being strong, however, we must be aware of the problem so we can realize the solution. Having optimal mental health is not a weakness. Let’s remove the stigma.

Let’s discuss the 10 common symptoms of depression and the importance of seeking treatment.

 

The symptoms of depression are varied and the severity changes with time. According to experts, depression can be an inherited disorder, caused by life-threatening illnesses, or stress. Other causes are certain diseases, medicines, drugs, alcohol, or mental illnesses. Though women are seen to experience depression more than men (this is attributed to hormonal swings, menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriage, pre-menopause, and post-menopause, etc…), men do suffer and often suffer in silence. Let’s discuss common symptoms that should not be overlooked.

  1. An unshakeable sadness, anxiety, or emptiness.
  2. Overwhelming hopelessness accompanied by pessimistic feelings.
  3. Extreme guilt, feelings of helplessness, and no sense of self-worth.
  4. Loss of energy, a slowing down of metabolism, and activity levels. Being plagued by constant fatigue.
  5. A sense of helplessness along with an increasing inability to focus and indecisiveness.
  6. Loss of sound sleep and development of extreme insomnia.
  7. Inexplicable weight loss or weight gain. Triggered by loss of appetite or eating binges.
  8. Brooding and suicidal inclinations.
  9. Irritability, short temper, as well as restlessness.
  10. Physical afflictions like headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain for no particular reason.

If you experience any of the above along with a marked change in behavior, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor. Your physician will give you a thorough examination to rule out physical causes for depression as well as any underlying medical problems. He/she may treat you right then with medications and/or refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for further management and therapy.

 

Depression will not go away by “toughing it out” or “being strong. Being weak in your will does not instantly cause you to be depressed. Most cases of depression can’t simply go away just by trying to cheer up. You can’t simply make it go away by doing exercises, taking vitamins or going on a vacation. Treating your depression often requires professional help – you can’t do it alone.

 

Treatment can include anti-depressant medicines, psychotherapy, as well as lifestyle changes. In extreme cases, electroconvulsive therapy or light therapy is prescribed. If your depression escalates or you are suicidal seek help from your family physician or health care provider. Do call a local health department, a community mental health center, or a hospital or clinic. Someone will extend a helping hand and talk you through the crisis.

 

[1] Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2013 Apr-Jul; 83(2 0 3): 386–397.

doi: 10.1111/ajop.12015

 

 

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