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Posted under: Health Community Submitted

Darkness In The Diaspora: Dealing With Mental Health In African Communities

"Depression and anxiety are monsters of another land."

There are things you don’t talk about in African homes. You don’t talk about the time Father wet himself then slid in the puddle of his making. You don’t talk about the possibility that we’ve been miseducated in matters ranging from religion to matrimony. You most certainly don’t talk about mental illness; why give demons a foothold over our lives by uttering such things?

So you trudge on with the gnawing thoughts in your head, too afraid or ashamed to be the one that concedes to such “nonsense.” Tortured, you sit and listen to your elders' rubbish; the cries of the depressed girl on TV. The tears of a spoiled American! “What does she have to cry about? Doesn’t she have food to eat? Clothes to wear?”

Depression and anxiety are monsters of another land. Admitting to them is an affront to the parents who risked life and limb to bring you to this land of abundance. So you sit and stare. You smile weakly at the family gatherings and yearn for the solace of your room as Awilo Longomba blares from the speakers. There must be others right? There have got to be others like you. Others that while not in immediate physical danger (the only peril that’s real apparently), sigh heavily and coax their countenance into some semblance of cheer. There must be, but who will speak up first to say, “Here I am”?

At some point, the consuming hollowness must become greater than the fear of scorn. The louder that screaming mind goes unheard, the more treacherous the waters become. You must find the others, I assure you they are out there. Find them and speak without a care. Should the state of your mind be ascribed to demons, then so be it. For even exorcism can only work once we acknowledge that there are sinister specters about.

Africans in the diaspora, Africans everywhere, must accept that the brain is an organ just like the liver and lungs. All organs get compromised be it by microorganisms or microaggressions. We are not weak when we acknowledge that something is wrong. That may very well be the height of wisdom. For only after calling out the dragon from its murky lair, can we band together to slay it.

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