THE BLOG

Depression's Peculiar Grip on Black LGBTQs, Part Two

04/23/2015 11:31 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

Welcome to part two of "Depression's Peculiar Grip on Black LGBTQs." As I've stated, I'm writing this multi-part series to shine a bright light on how depression can have a more pointed and peculiar affect and impact on black LGBTQ persons. And as an African-American gay man, one who's suffered from this illness throughout periods of his life, I can attest to its near-crippling effects.

As one might imagine, if you're black, LGBTQ and depressed, you're stumbling around with an even heavier, crushing burden on your shoulders.

Before we delve deeper into that, it behooves us to first examine depression among the black community as a whole.

Unfortunately, African-Americans are swimming -- and, in many cases, drowning -- in a sea of denial: Far too many steadfastly refuse to own the reality that they are confronted by mental health disorders. You see, to admit being depressed is considered a sign of weakness.

The powerful bludgeon called stigma is largely responsible for this sea of denial. Mentalhealthamerica.net's "Depression and African-Americans," states:

The myths and stigma that surround depression create needless pain and confusion, and can keep people from getting proper treatment. The following statements reflect some common misconceptions about African-Americans and depression:

• 'Why are you depressed? If our people could make it through slavery, we can make it through anything.'
• 'When a black woman suffers from a mental disorder, the opinion is that she is weak. And weakness in black women is intolerable.'
• 'You should take your troubles to Jesus, not some stranger/psychiatrist'.

But one factor that deserves more attention is how Black masculinity serves as a huge barrier to seeking care.

Think about it. Whether it's the media or just what we tell each other, Black men are sent messages every day to be hyper-masculine, super strong, aggressive, and angry.

'Man up!' 'Real men don't cry!' 'Showing emotion makes you weak.' 'Being vulnerable makes you gay.'

These types of attitudes continue to help foster a culture of silence that allows Black men to sit and suffer in silence.

Several years ago, African-American social worker and public relations expert, Terrie M. Williams, authored Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting. Having battled depression herself, she was interviewed by U.S. News and World Report Health.

"In the African-American community," she says:

There's a tendency to hide or ignore symptoms of depression, which include sadness, energy loss, feelings of worthlessness, thoughts of death or suicide, change in weight, and oversleeping or difficulty sleeping. That tendency means missed opportunities to hit the disorder with effective treatments, including talk therapy, antidepressant medication, or both.

African-Americans are less likely to have access to 'comforts'--such as mental health services, massage, and yoga--that can make dealing with depression easier, Williams says. 'If you don't have access to those comforts that cushion what you're going through, that in and of itself makes (dealing with depression) different and very difficult.'

And, let's take things a step further: Suicide. According to "Suicide Among Blacks," by Samantha Gluck, "The suicide rate among black men has doubled since 1980 making suicide the third leading cause of death for black men between the ages of 15 and 24."

That aforementioned BET commentary reveals more sobering and shocking statistics.

And while suicide rates among Black men are lower than their white counterparts, our rates have gone up dramatically. A report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that from 1980 and 1995, the suicide rate among African-Americans ages 10 to 14 increased 233 percent, as compared to 120 percent of whites.

Depression has been an intimate intruder at various points of my life. Fortunately though, I was able to finally vanquish this formidable foe after making my "great escape" from Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPV/A). As soon as I left that emotionally and mentally abusive relationship, I found a gifted and compassionate therapist who truly saved my life. She put me on the journey to self-awareness and self-discovery -- which led to true and sustained healing.

Next up: My first major bout with depression, and the "411" on depression's peculiar grip on black LGBTQs.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there for you 24/7 -- in both English and Spanish. Call: 1-800-273-8255. www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Follow Wyatt O'Brian Evans at Wyattevans.com, and on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MisterWOE