Eagle Eye Advice: Timely Advice for Real Problems

Lakeesha J. Harris, Senior Staff Writter


Published: Monday, February 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 7, 2012 03:02

Eagle Eye advice is committed to providing real answers to everyday problems. As it is Black History month I wanted to dedicate this space to the integral issue of mental health and suicides among African Americans. One question came across my desk right after the passing of Don Cornelius, long time host of Soul Train, due to an apparent suicide.
Q. Dear Lakeesha,
For years mental health has been taboo topic in my family. I am African American and we just don’t talk about stuff like that. I am finding that many of my family members are dealing with it
through drug use or not at all. I am concerned that this is a generational thing, as I find myself depressed and can’t explain way. As an African American, how can we start the conversation about mental health issues in our community? No one wants to talk about it. What can students like me do to get mental health services on our campus? – Anonymous Junior

A. Dear Anon – Junior, I am so glad that you are reaching out. Tackling mental health issues can be a great undertaking as many mental health resources are drying up due to the economy, and quite frankly, mental health is treated like a dangerous topic within our community. Quite often we underestimate the limits of what we can take on men- tally on a day-to-day basis, because we’ve been socially trained to suck it up and shut up.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), while depression is most likely caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors, it can happen to anyone. Another study done by NIMH showed that less than half of African Americans with a Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) are likely to seek treatment, and African Americans are likely to experience MDD chronically and more severely than their age counterparts of other ethnicities. In short, you are not alone, and it’s great to recognize that you need help tackling this issue. Reaching out is the first step toward a mentally healthier you and contacting a mental health professional could be the best thing that you do for the rest of your life.
Your story struck a personal cord with me as mental health issues run in my family too, and I felt as you did, unable to talk about them be- cause they were taboo. Everything seemed to go wrong in my younger years, I was very depressed and a danger to myself. I was lucky that someone found me before I took my life. Every day I realize how my absence from this world would have affected those I love and who love me. Others aren’t so lucky and feel they have to navigate this very tough terrain alone. So please remember that you aren’t alone and there are resources available to you right here at NEIU.
Northeastern Illinois University has free counseling services on our campus that can be reached by calling (773) 446-4650. You can visit their offices in room D-024, right below the Enrollment Services Office.
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