As a disabled PoC (person of color), I have dealt with the societal stigma around my chronic illnesses and mental illnesses. I have also dealt with barriers in the medical system that arise for people of color when they seek a diagnosis. It’s Mental Health Awareness Day, and as a disabled person of color dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD, here is what I want you to know:
1. Mental illness is different for everyone. This can mean in the sense that under the umbrella of mental illnesses, there are a variety ranging from agoraphobia to anxiety disorder to depression to post-partum depression to bipolar disorder and so much more. This can also mean that two people with the same illnesses can have completely differing experiences.
2. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. What is compatible for one person’s brain may not be compatible with another person’s brain. For example, talk therapy, medication, and exercise may work easily for one person whereas medication is the only option for another person. Needs can also fluctuate for an individual over time.
3. Words matter. Words like “crazy” and “psycho” and phrases like “I’m so OCD” are ableist/stigmatizing towards people with mental illnesses. Calling a terrible person “crazy” or “psycho” reveals exactly what one thinks of mentally ill people. It implies that it’s ok to describe bad people as mentally ill because mentally ill people are inherently bad human beings. Don’t use us to describe something negatively. Describing orderliness and cleanliness as “OCD” undermines the struggles people with OCD deal with. Calling a temporary sadness “depression” minimizes what people with depression deal with. All of this makes diagnosis difficult and makes it harder for us to be accepted by society.
4. Racial bias in mental health care makes it incredibly difficult for people of color to be treated properly. Now you’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with Mental Health Awareness Day? Since I’m a PoC, it is natural for me to discuss the medical racism that leads to the neglect of PoC by doctors. Studies have shown racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care. Despite rates of mental illness being consistent amongst all races, people of color are less likely to receive proper care. It hurts us when we’re neglected. Dealing with racism in itself has proven to worsen our mental health; something I can personally attest to since I’ve spiraled into depressive episodes after such encounters.
Here are some additional articles you can read on this matter:
Awareness of people of color dealing with mental illnesses is necessary because it will prompt the proper diagnosis and treatment we need. We also rarely see ourselves represented in awareness campaigns, so this plays a huge part in why I was ecstatic to be a guest blogger here.
5. Lastly, this is something everyone should remember: mental illnesses are valid illnesses. The brain is an organ that controls movement, thoughts, perceptions, emotions, memory, speech, and so much more. Any structural and/or chemical changes in the brain can lead to it functioning differently. And this includes how mental illnesses form. There are areas in our brain that control how we feel and perceive things; any changes to it can lead to the development of mental illnesses.
As for those who think they have a mental illness, please reach out to a doctor as soon as possible. If you need someone to listen, you can always reach out to me through e-mail for support: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eman is known for her disability advocacy and hilarious illness puns/memes on her twitter account @punnysamosa. She also creates art and writes poems and essays on punnysamosa.com and patreon.com/punnysamosa. Eman’s mission is to dismantle ableism along with giving the chronic illness and mental illness communities a bunch of support and laughs.