Have you found yourself sleeping too little or too much? Do you have difficulty concentrating? Have you been suffering from sudden changes in weight or appetite? Do you feel hopeless, helpless, or find yourself feeling sad for days, weeks or months at a time? If so, you may be suffering from depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 19 million Americans suffer from depression. Out of 19 million Americans, over 2 million are of African descent. Out of two million African Americans who suffer from depression, only half seek treatment. These startling statics expose at least two important concerns that need to be addressed within the African American and world communities. The first is why are so many African Americans are going without treatment. The second is how to effectively combat depression within the African American community.
There are several reasons why African Americans do not seek treatment for depression. Many African Americans are afraid to be stigmatized and labeled as mentally ill if they admit they are suffering from depression. In addition to this, many African Americans are afraid that if they admit they are depressed, they will be considered weak and unable to handle the “ups and downs” of life. Another reason why African Americans do not seek treatment is they do not know they are depressed or dismiss symptoms. Lastly, (perhaps most importantly), most African Americans do not have access to healthcare treatment programs that could alleviate or treat their depression.
Once one understands why many African Americans do not seek treatment for depression, then one can come up with ideas and strategies to change it. The best way to get people to seek treatment is to educate them and others about the illness. The more people know about the nature, causes, signs, and symptoms of depression, the better they will understand it. Along with educating people, leaders within the African American community need to raise awareness about depression. The more people know about depression, the less likely they are to stigmatize others who are suffering from the disease. Lastly, treatment plans such as therapy, medication, exercise, yoga and massage need to be made available to those who are suffering from depression.
If you or a loved one is suffering from any signs or symptoms of depression such as chronic fatigue, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, sudden weight gain or loss and loss of interest, then it is important to seek help. You are not alone and you do not need to suffer through depression alone. There is help out there, but you have to be willing to make the first step.