Join me, a man of perfect imperfections, in confronting mental health issues
To my first born, Jayla, Daddy loves you even during those dark, self-imposed days of isolation and despair.
Shaka and Baby, your shining, beautiful faces keep me pushing toward the light even when I fight to stay in the dark.
I have faced so many days of isolation, confusion and just a desire to let go. It's taken me years to get to this point of acceptance. But, because of my belief in God and the undying love of my children, I am committed to managing my emotional issues. Today, for my babies, Daddy is embracing his perfect imperfections so that I can show them how to live their lives to their fullest potential.
Yes, I am claiming publicly: I struggle with depression and issues associated with post-traumatic stress disorder -- PTSD. Being a proud man and a Black man at that, I am not comfortable with talking about these types of things. We are led to believe that to share something about our emotional selves is a sign of weakness.
Today, I claim victory over those thoughts of fear and doubt.
The stigma associated with mental health issues has led to a situation where many African-Americans are left untreated or undiagnosed. Nationally, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, African-Americans are less likely to receive mental health diagnoses and treatment. African-Americans have less access to mental health services and the services that are rendered are of poorer quality. We also are underrepresented in mental health research.
All of these issues undoubtedly affect our lives and the lives of the ones we love. I am aiming to use my personal example to show that seeking help is a sign of strength, and to try to move our communities toward a continual and healthier examination of our mental health, collectively and individually.
July 31 ends National Minority Health Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has worked with professionals, practitioners, patients and others to draw attention to mental health and mental health services in marginalized communities across our country since 2008. NAMI is working to develop innovative ways to instill mental health into discussions, including the recommendation of including mental health issues in health fairs that typically focus on medical screenings, physical fitness and nutrition.
In August, I will host my Fifth Annual Health and Wellness Weekend – Aug. 18-20 with events scheduled throughout the district -- and will strive to infuse mental health into all aspects of the weekend to achieve some of the goals outlined by NAMI into our communities.
Our annual Health & Wellness Weekend's original purpose was to offer a safe, nurturing and empowering environment where citizens can come and find a supportive hand with whatever struggles they are facing. This year, we stand ready to assist with resources you may need even if you don’t think you need them. We’re geared to help those suffering days and days of feeling down, to the point where feeling down feels normal. It isn’t.
We will address everything from financial needs, emotional support needs, environmental needs, physical needs and spiritual needs.
Times are changing, and we only have to reflect on Jay-Z's "4:44" to hear the leaders in our culture and community embracing mental health services.
Although a weekend of events will never be enough time to find and resolve years of hurt, pain and despair -- like what I have slowly began to rise from -- it can be a start for helping those suffering through years of fog.
I hope to be a part of this shift locally and nationwide -- and I thank my babies, Jayla, Shaka and Baby, for giving me the courage.