Friday, February 06, 2015

Fed Up Friday - Mental Health Check Up

Can we have a talk about mental health? I mean, like, a real conversation about mental illness. Not some surface "Oh, it happens to other people" type talk. And definitely not one of those "I don't know anyone with a mental illness" talk. Because you do. You DO know someone who suffers from a mental illness.

I can only write about what I know-- and what I have seen in the Black community is that we, as a whole, pretend that mental illness doesn't affect us. So, if we have an uncle that is depressed, we never say that is what it is. We say shit like "Aye, he has never really bounced back from ___" and let it be that. If we have a schizophrenic brother, we say shit like "that is just how he is," never acknowledging that he could pose a danger to himself or others. We don't talk about suicide attempts, PTSD, Down's Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, etc. Nothing that makes us look like we are weak. Nothing that makes it easier for others to point out our faults. We admit nothing. Or if we do acknowledge that there may be a problem, we try to pray it away. Prayers with no other action. Honestly, it is sad. 

There are men and women in our community that we are doing a complete disservice by continuously pretending that whatever issues they may struggle with don't exist. They do. These illnesses are real. By denying the existence of these illnesses we allow the stigma to continue; we allow a cancer to continue to grow, unchecked; we allow some of these illnesses to continue to be passed from parent to child, awarding our silence with more illness. All because we don't want other people to perceive us as weak. But when DO we talk about it? When does that time come? When do we start to pair all these prayers up with some action that will help ourselves? 

Let me tell you when we will finally say something... when someone dies or does something harmful. Then we are willing to talk about *possible* issues. Let's look at the present state of Bobbi Kristina Brown. For the longest time we have said nothing about what the death of her mother may have done to her, right? We didn't say anything when she came out and said that she want to marry her "brother" Nick Gordon. We didn't say anything when her appearance started to change. But now-- now that she is in the hospital, possibly still in a coma, now we want to come to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe she has been depressed. It isn't just the Black community, but America in general. Remember when Robin Williams died? Ernest Hemingway, his granddaughter Margot Hemingway, Dorian Gray,  Lee Thompson Young, Simone Battle, Kurt Cobain, Freddie Prinze (the dad, not the son), Phyllis Hyman, Carroll O'Connor's son Hugh... the list goes on and on. We actively ignore people's problems, problems that are noticeable, until we no longer can. At that point it is also too late to help. 

We need to sit down and have an honest conversation about mental illness in our communities. We need some innovative thinking to help those suffering. We need to make that help available, without any stigma attached. We need to make sure that we aren't just trying to "pray the crazy away," but instead we pair our prayers with love and WORK towards a plan that will help those in need. We need to insist that our brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents get help... before it is too late.

**Suicide Prevention Hotline 1.800.273.8255; Boy's Town National Hotline 1.800.443.3000; Mental Health America 1.800.969.6642**

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Could I Be A Republican??

Nope, you didn't read the title wrong. Well, not exactly. I guess I should explain. Whoa-- that is never good... explaining at the beginning? Eek. Ah, well, I mean, how bad could it be? :)

So, a couple days ago, Papa Hot, Black and Bitter were having a hushed telephone call. Hushed because Lefty works second shift and Papa HBB has this thing about calling me in the morning. I think that he just misses me most out of all the kids, so YAY!! Anyway, we were having a hushed conversation about politics. The more I think about our conversation, the more I think that if someone met me, they would assume that I would lean towards the right.

The largest portion of our conversation was about the responsibilities of members of society. What we are supposed to do for our households, our community, and our friends. Clearly not a shocker that my dad and I came up with the same idea on what someone's responsibilities are-- I mean, he taught me responsibility, so of course we would both think that, as members of a civilized society, it is our responsibility to be productive AND to help others. There we were, two *slightly* reformed heathens, talking about how we should help others prosper, because the Bible tells us so. We were a Sunday School song. In real life.

Seriously, we talked about "Christians" that we know that refuse to help people looking for job-- even if they know of job openings. Those who are content to let others suffer, living from paycheck to paycheck, when they KNOW how people can earn extra money. "Christians" who refuse to do community service if it is offered in a building that belongs to another denomination. You know the type, right? "Christians" that will talk about you on Sunday after sitting next to you at the club on Saturday. Super, super petty Sister so-and-so who comes to church with alcohol on her breath, daring you or anyone else to sit in 'her' seat. Super thirsty Brother so-and-so who will tell you what to do in your house, when his house is built on top of a sink hole. And this week-- Brother and Sister so-and-so who are praying so hard for Bobbi Kristina Brown to recover from her medically induced coma, but won't spare a dime, dollar or a good word for their neighbor. Yep, I said that.

Why did this conversation make me think I could be a Republican? Because everything that I have read lately from the Republican party says that they are the party of societal responsibility, Christian values, high moral code, God loving, Jesus fearing... Bible following... See, that sounds good... on paper.

BUT are you working towards the betterment of your fellow man? Are you just talking a good game on social media or are you backing all that talk up? Are you helping people find employment or are you one of those people who say "I have a job, you should go and get one too"? Are you doing community service-- in YOUR community or are you going to a different state or country to help people you don't know? Are you following up with the widows in your life? How about orphans? Do you volunteer for The Boys and Girls Club? Big Brothers Big Sisters? Local recreation centers? Or do you just complain about these crazy kids, walking through your yard in the summertime? Do you take people under your wing? Do you make it EASY for folks to be successful? Or do you only look good on paper?

Moral of the Story-- in theory I could make a great Republican-- on paper-- EXCEPT, I don't just talk a good game on social media, I make it happen. I know I didn't make it here by myself-- and I refuse to be a stumbling block for someone else who is trying to make it. Someone encouraged my crazy thoughts & dreams. Someone told me I could make it to college, get a job, do whatever I wanted. Someone helped me when I got laid off; when I moved to another state; when I bought a house and when I lost it. So I encourage people to do what they are passionate about. I don't look down on folks who make less money than I do. If I can do something that will help my neighbor bring in a honest check, instead of contemplating stealing my shit, I am going to help them. I help with resumes, cover letters, referrals. Because I know a good job is not going to fall in your lap. I know that sometimes things are just out of your control. I know that sometimes you just need a little help, for a little while. So, I am not a Republican, or a Democrat. I am one of those scary, slightly idealistic Independents... that does what she wants, helps the less fortunate and VOTES in every election. Be afraid, be very afraid.

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