For many years, I struggled with depression and anxiety. Because I have learned to cope with it, sometimes I forget that this battle used to be my normal. But then when someone confides in me that they are experiencing the same issues with mental health that I did, it all comes rushing back.
One thing that strikes me is how reluctant people are to seek help, even after I tell them my story and how I was able to overcome. Fortunately, I was able to get help early and address my depression with therapy and medication. As adults, we tend to feel like if we can’t fix things on our own, we aren’t strong or capable enough. Especially as people of colour, knowing that everyone goes through hardships, we are expected to suck it up and move past it. But it isn’t always that simple.
As a teenager, I learned to deal with my depression and my anxiety greatly subsided. I wanted to help other young people experience the joy I was beginning to have myself. So I studied psychology and was grateful for the opportunity to work in the field for several years.
But by no means did my depression go away just because I gained some coping skills, had a career in mental health and was an adult. I continued to have bouts of depression and my anxiety reached peak levels, especially when I attended law school. Going through all of this allowed me to learn that treatment is rarely a one-off cure. Today, I don’t take any medication and no longer see a therapist. But over the years I learned that you can’t just stop treatment the moment you feel better. The proper way is under the guidance of a professional so that you can be equipped with the tools to deal with it on your own. The key to getting help is realizing that there is no shame in it. You are not alone.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness states, “As compared to people that identify as straight, LGBT individuals are 3 times more likely to experience a mental health condition.” The RaRe Report, a UK based study, found that “34 percent of young LGB people (under 26) surveyed had made at least one suicide attempt in their lives. Forty-eight percent of young trans people had attempted suicide. This is compared to 18 percent of heterosexual and 26 percent of cisgender young people.” What’s even more concerning is if you are both a person of colour and identify as LGBTQ, you are more likely to suffer from multiple minority stress, which makes you more susceptible to stress-related mental health issues.
Despite the urgent need to address mental health, many people allow stigmas to stop them from getting help or even speaking about it at all. It is time for us to be more open about our mental health. Seeking care for mental health, whether it is traditional or alternative treatments, should be normalized the same way it is normal to visit your medical doctor.
No one is perfect and we were not put on this earth with a handbook on how to live a successful and happy life. Many of us go through the motions of day-to-day, simply existing. We deserve more than that, even when the outside world tells us otherwise. A little guidance, especially in these difficult social and political times, is sometimes necessary to uncover the inner strength we have to survive. What better way to resist than to show the forces of oppression, hate, and injustice that not only are we still here, we are flourishing.
If you want to talk to someone or get help concerning your mental health, see the numbers below.
Mental Health Hotlines (UK):
- Lifeline – 0808 808 8000
- National Health Services (NHS) – 111
Mental Health Hotlines (US):
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK
• National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)