In the wake of the awful tragedy that took place on Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton, Connecticut, the issue of treating individuals with various mental health disorders before they reach the point of insanity or causing harm to others in order to express their emotions, came up. The 20-year-old young man who massacred 6 adults and 20 innocent school children is being presented in the media as someone who had severe mental health issues and wasn’t stable. Due to this instability being untreated, he acted out in a heinous way that affected the nation. Why is it that when Blacks commit crimes they are labeled as thugs or a menace to society? Blacks suffer from mental illnesses as well, contrary to popular belief.
It seems as though the only time the issue of mental wellness comes up in the case of African Americans is when someone commits suicide, such as in the cases of Don Cornelius, music executive Chris Lightly and the recent murder/suicide news of Kansas City Chief’s linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend. That is when a conversation about the mental stability of Blacks and the lack of help they receive actually becomes a central issue. In all actuality, mental instability runs rampart in the Black community. The sad thing is that no one looks at the cause behind the action, but simply labels the convicted as having a troubled life or having a history of run-ins with the law. No one cares about what thought process that went on in that person’s head that led them to commit a crime. No one cares about this person’s home life, upbringing or possibly untreated mental illness. The labels are swift and quick without a second thought.
Blacks are hurting just as much as any other race, yet their problems are ignored. Depression is one of the biggest undiagnosed plagues facing the Black community. ” … researchers reported that 10.4 percent of African Americans, 12.9 percent of Caribbean blacks, and 17.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites had MDD at some point in life. However, among participants with depression, the rate of chronic depression was highest in black groups: 56.5 percent in African Americans and 56 percent in Caribbean blacks, compared with 38.6 percent in whites, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The efforts made to address this are few and far in-between. Every Black person who commits a crime isn’t just another statistic who should be treated as such. They have problems and suppressed emotions that have built up over time.
“Misinformation, an absence of trust in the system, racism and financial circumstances are some of the forces that can create barriers in making appropriate decisions about [Blacks] seeking treatment,” according to child psychiatrist Dr. Sarah Vinson.
It is sad that Blacks aren’t afforded the same level of understanding and diagnosis as their White counterparts. Mental illness is one of the things in life that doesn’t care about color. It can affect anyone, at any time and on any level. It kills me when it is obvious that a person who has committed a crime has deeper issues, but no one thinks to address them because of the color of his/her skin. In 2011, MSNBC reported that Psychologist Dustin Pardini of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that about four out of five kids who are delinquents as children do not continue to offend in adulthood.
It is not always as simple as those people are just a “product of their environment.”