POC’s mental health is not funny, nor entertaining


By Karidja Monjolo, Managing Editor

Mental health in minority families can often be dismissed and ignored; depression is seen as a curse word or a burden. It is crucial that these barriers are broken down and addressed.

Oftentimes, the media views mental disorders, especially those involving black individuals, as funny or entertaining. Musician Kanye West, for example, recently went on various Instagram rants which many news outlets found shocking and worth ridicule. However, in 2016, West was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. YAs The New York Post explains, there are still people who call him crazy, unhinged, or even psychotic; they laugh and joke at his outbursts instead of offering support and help.

Vox contributor Kiana Fitzgerald, who also suffers from bipolar disorder, “So when I see people discuss Kanye using intentionally disparaging tones and language, it gives me pause. It makes me wonder what the difference between us is, besides the millions of dollars and many Grammy Awards. It makes me question whether the support I’ve received has been genuine.”

The negative talk about Kanye is not only affecting him, but also other people who also suffer from this disorder.

The stigma involving mental health in black communities can be traced back to slavery, where the common misconception was that slaves could not even contract mental health disorders. Instead mental health issues were written off. This dismissive attitude has been passed down for generations, and is evident in today’s culture and behaviors. Mental health issues are often seen as a weakness or a burden: these negative stereotypes make people scared to even consider getting help.

Photo by Sasha Baumgartner

Deconstructing Stigma: Changing Attitudes about Mental Health is a campaign designed to combat mental health stereotypes and inaccuracies. The campaign produces oversized images of people affected by mental illness, including Ivy (last name withheld), who suffers from anxiety.

In reference to slavery in the black community, Ivy said, “In our communities, it is frowned upon to get help, and most of the time people are encouraged to hold their feelings in or figure out how to deal with them on their own.”

She wrote that she hoped to encourage others to seek the help they need.

In order to address the stigma around mental health, we first need to discuss why it is there in the first place. Today’s African-American youth face generational trauma and systematic racism. On top of social media pressure, when our loved ones dismiss our mental health issues, we start to dismiss it within ourselves. Mental health is constantly growing, we need to be comfortable with talking about things like this even if they are hard.

“By recognizing that the Black community has unique experiences when it comes to mental illness, we—as citizens of the world—are beginning to chip away at the stigma that permeates through culture,” said Christine M. Crawford, MD, MPH.

Black and POC families need to address mental illness and stop running from it. Get help when it is needed. Mental health is not a weakness, nor is it funny or entertaining, and it should never be treated as such. We should educate our families on mental health, and make them hear us. There are many resources out there for specifically people of color; they tailor to you and your unique experiences: