In my last post I introduced the necessity for discussion on mental health and mental disorders in the Black community. Today, I’ll talk about depression as it pertains to the Black community or possibly other communities of color in America. Recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as cultural dysthymia, it came about to help counselors with the appropriate diagnosis of members of an oppressed group. Essentially dysthymia is classified as a low-grade depression and many African Americans experience and is reflected in sadness, anger, hostility, aggression, self-hatred, hopelessness, and self-destructive behaviors. The cause? Inheriting over 250 years of discomfort and oppression due to the years of enslavement, prejudice, and discrimination (some still being an issue today) (Cultural Dysthymia: Unrecognized Disorder Among African Americans? Vontress 2007).
The reason that I wanted to bring this to the forefront is because when I stumbled upon this article, I had mixed emotions. Initially, I felt like it was about time that the psychiatric world recognized how mentally draining, and holistically damaging it is to Black in America. On the other hand, I noticed a tinge of offense being taken. I questioned whether or not the article was a tool (one of many) to forever tie current African Americans to their struggles as opposed to just considering their health. I understand the importance of separating what an oppressed mind experiences from that of the mind of an oppressor, but the bigger question is whether or not the community would buy it. In my previous post, I mentioned the stigma of mental illness being seen as weakness in the Black community, would its customization to the Black community change how they perceive mental illness? Namely depression? Furthermore, does this pose a serious threat to Black youth who are “woke” (aware to the oppressed situation that African-Americans are still in) or “conscious?”
Young Black activists share a common experience on their path to being “woke” that is realizing that despite how far the country has come in domestic race relations, nothing has changed but has gotten rather worse. So what does this mean for these social movements if these activists are at risk of experiencing cultural dysthymia, or already are? Will these movements change our situation, or will this discussion come up again in a different time period but similar setting?