The Role of Identity in Mental Health: Getting Unstuck on the Road to RecoveryMay 5, 2023
Our culture, beliefs, sexual identity, values, race, and language all affect how we perceive and experience mental health conditions. The very nature of our suffering here in America extends; from not being able to perceive the role pain was supposed to play in healing our souls. Down through the last five hundred years of humanity for blacks in America, we have failed to identify the commonality among our suffering.
We have failed to identify the role we were supposed to play when it comes to Mental Health. As a Born-Again believer, I am of the mindset that the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments, planted drugs in the black community, racism in the healthcare system, and misdiagnosis of Schizophrenia within white-owned psychiatric spaces, were meant for evil but God allowed it to work in our favor.
In Genesis 50:20 it reads” As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, in order to accomplish a day like this — to preserve the lives of many people.”
When you think of The story of Joseph in the Bible: Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery out of jealousy, but Joseph ended up rising to a position of power in Egypt and saving many people from famine.
In addition, The discovery of penicillin which has helped to save millions of lives was brought about by Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin by accident when he noticed that a mold had contaminated one of his petri dishes. This discovery led to the development of antibiotics, and the rest is history.
Yes, African Americans are at the low end of American life when it comes to education, housing, entrepreneurship, family, generational wealth, and community. Nevertheless, our identity as one of the wealthiest subgroups of blacks on the face of planet Earth positions us perfectly to become the purveyors of mental health, medicine, medical breakthroughs, and scientific revolutions.
Black pain can operate similarly to the story of the Phoenix in mythology. The Phoenix is a mythical bird that is said to rise from the ashes of its own destruction. This symbolizes the idea that even in the face of destruction and chaos, new life and growth can emerge. I believe that each culture is given a mandate for which to fulfill. It’s these cultural differences that seem to affect how mental health is viewed.
How Blacks view mental health is something that must be discussed and transcribed into a national narrative. Growing out of the struggles of black life was our faith, and hope in a higher power that could deliver us from the hands of our enemies and the stench of death. Our battle cry was prayer. “God Deliver Us Amen”.
In fact, the cultural differences of black Americans influence what treatments, coping mechanisms, and support we deemed necessary for our healing. Finding comfort in the mental healthcare system of oppression was never an option for black life.
It is therefore essential for culture and identity to be a part of the conversation as we discuss both mental health and mental health care. A person must feel comfortable and understood by their mental health professional for a therapeutic relationship to be effective. This includes feeling their mental health professional understands their identity and being comfortable addressing it openly.
As a black man who has frequented a few counseling sessions, I often wondered how I could self-identify with the field of mental health and the role it was supposed to play in my life. I was programmed from birth to take the whip, pull up my bootstraps, be a man, suck it up, pray at the altar to God, let go of sin and trust the process. I don’t carry a mental framework for seeking help from the same race of individuals that sought to destroy me in the first place.
One of the lessons that I had to learn about mental health and my own healing, was that the journey is a process of faith. When you are walking by faith no true timetable exists for when the scales of ignorance will become removed from a person’s spiritual eyes. After 15 years of struggling to identify with the role of mental health in my life, I was able to see where black men get stuck along the way.
In many ways, the Gospel of John sets the scenario for many black men concerning mental health; when it comes to a man who carried an infirmity for thirty-eight years. The man who becomes spiritually blind concerning his own God consciousness finds himself unstable and of a double consciousness.
On one end he believes that God will protect and save him while at the same time fearful of what will happen if he gives up his earthly possessions. For the first thirty-eight years of a black man’s life, he must come face to face with the importance of mental science in the process of his healing.
If there is a Scientific framework for getting rich, building quality friends, earning a college degree, or building relationships, there is a Science to healing. But first, the wounds must be cleaned out in order for a deeper level of healing to take place. Every black man in America is on a Journey of healing, the problem arises when we don’t know how to remove the barriers that arise.
- Recognition of the Stumbling block
- Freeing up the emotions
- Cleaning out the infected heart
- Renewing the mind towards oneness
- Seeking therapeutic modalities that create long-term healing & renewal.
- Exercising the will over one’s underdeveloped emotional state.
By understanding how to view oneself in lieu of mental health, getting unstuck becomes a much smoother process. As black men, we must stop looking at ourselves through the eyes of white oppression subconsciously. The role of mental health for black men is to view oneself how God sees us. God sees us as “strong black men with healthy emotions, raising kings and queens, building up the black community, and pushing the kingdom mandate which is dominion” (to be fruitful and multiply).
Naman was told to go and dip in Jordan seven times as an act of obedience to the process of healing. Sometimes, we got to do what we don’t want to do in order to bring about a revolution in our insight and thinking about healing. It’s ok to submerge our souls in the muddy waters of our experiences.