Pandemic adds to stressors already taking a toll on Blacks
First in a series
Some suggest that sports is needed for reopening America and a return to normalcy. But to some, this so-called normalcy is a constant mental health battle. May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
Blacks are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.
Nevertheless, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Minority Health Office, only 7% of Blacks admit that they receive mental health services, 2% take prescription medicine for mental health, or 8% see a doctor for psychological reasons.
“I think it is stigmatized in all communities, but not on the level it is in the African American community,” said mental health advocate Achea Redd.
Many Blacks historically fear being called crazy or talking about their mental health to strangers. “I’m not going to pay somebody and tell them all of my business,” as Redd described the prevailing attitude.
“That’s my school of thought and a lot of Black people’s school of thought when it comes to therapy.” It can be doubly difficult for Black women.
“Black women go through this whole thing of colorism—light skin, dark skin, good hair and nappy hair,” she explained. “It is all of these things that was passed down to us from slavery. I think that Black men…don’t go through the colorism like we do as females.”
Several years ago Redd finally learned what had made her be so crazy for so long: “I actually received a diagnosis in 2016, and that was after a breakdown,” she said of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). “It went from uncontrollable crying all the time to developing a tremor where I was constantly shaking, then to recurrent panic attacks.
“I felt like I was going to have a heart attack, and I was going to die. When I explained to my physician my symptoms, that was when he explained to me that it wasn’t anything physiological,” Redd said.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says GAD is characterized by persistent and excessive worrying and being overly concerned about a number of things, finding it difficult to control such worrying. At least 3% the U.S. population has GAD, and women are twice as likely to get it.
“For so long I have thought there was something wrong with me. I think [the diagnosis] gave me validation to hear that there is nothing wrong with me. It is just something chemically in my brain that needed to be balanced. That helped me a lot and helped me move forward to my work of being an advocate.”
Redd is a mother of two and wife of a former NBA player. She has written two books with a third coming out later this year, and she started a young girls’ support group.
Asked if being a pro athlete’s spouse opened more doors for her in her advocacy, she said, “No, because we haven’t used that as an angle. I think I completely built this platform and the ability to speak on it mostly because I have been really, really open. I think people appreciate my authenticity.”
America’s imposed lockdown because of coronavirus only added another layer to everyone’s mental health and wellness challenges. “All of this pandemic has definitely impacted my mental health personally,” Redd said.
“When this whole coronavirus came on, I was not at a good place. There were a lot of things going on with me… There were days when I let myself just cry and cry because of feeling the emotion of being scared, of being uncertain.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.