Overcoming mental illness in minority communities

Hip-Hop artist Scott Mescudi — better known by his stage name, Kid Cudi — sent a deep, personal message earlier this month when he checked himself into a treatment facility due to “depression and suicidal urges” he said he has been battling for a long time.

“My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it,” the rapper said. “I can’t make new friends because of it. I don’t trust anyone because of it and I’m tired of being held back in my life. I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling.”

Mescudi’s vocal message was particularly meaningful in light of the fact seeking professional help with mental illness is lacking in the black community, particularly among men.

According to the U.S. HHS Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to suffer with a mental illness than non-Hispanic whites.

“The context of mental health concerns has shifted and for a very long time, people of color have worked within this context of pure survival of this mode where if you have your basic necessities, that’s more than what a lot of people have,” said VCU Men’s Issue Specialist Howard Lloyd.

Lloyd said he believes the underlying issue stems deeper for men of color as opposed to other groups of people, causing an interpersonal conflict with the individual.

“Often times in communities of color, especially with men of color, there tends to be a comparison point of ‘I should be able to handle this. Look at what my parents and grandparents have made it through,’” Lloyd said.

VCU freshman Jamila Ward said she thinks the first step to understanding and destigmatizing mental health is being considerate of everyone’s vulnerabilities.

“Black mental health is a dominant necessity that we need to look upon more serious,” Ward said. “Parents and loved ones need to be considerate that depression is a real issue especially from ages 14-21.”

Following his message, Cudi received an outpour of love and support from his fans and celebrities including Wiz Khalifa, Travis Scott and Monica Brown.

The hashtag #YouGoodMan also spread on social media, providing black men a space to openly discuss mental illness and personal experiences with mental illness throughout their life.

At VCU, the University Counseling services — located on the second floor of the University Student Commons — offers free counseling to all students. After speaking to one of the specialists, the student will be directed to the proper treatment that they need.

“The idea is to be proactive and not reactive” Lloyd said.

Lloyd said he encourages students to use the tools provided online which can be found on the VCU website at https://students.vcu.edu/counseling/.

Aya Driouche, Contributing Writer

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