Challenging The Stigma Of Mental Illness
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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At the age of 12, former NBA player Thabiti Boone witnessed his severely depressed mother attempt suicide when she jumped from a six-story building and landed at his feet.

“When she was jumping off the roof, I took in all of the depression that caused her to jump,” says Boone, describing the incident in a public service video sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. He said that although he felt as if everyone was waiting for him to “break down” mentally, no one sat down and talked with him about how he was feeling.

Too often, Boone’s experience is echoed in the African American community when it comes to talking about mental health. Mental illness is brushed under the carpet, ignored, or stigmatized. But a new campaign by SAMHSA is designed to raise awareness of mental health problems among young adults in the African American community hopes to get more people talking about the issue — and ultimately getting the help they need.

The ads will encourage and educate young adults to step up and talk openly about mental health problems, and that they are not alone in their struggle. The television, radio, print, and Web ads feature real personal stories of African Americans dealing with mental health problems, and they aim to engage those in the community to support young adults who need help.

While 58.7% of Americans with serious mental illness received care in 2008, only 44.8% of mentally ill blacks received services, according to SAMHSA’s 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The prevalence of serious mental illness is highest among those age 18 to 25, but according to SAMHSA, those people are the least likely to receive services or counseling.

“African Americans are more likely to delay seeking treatment until their symptoms are more severe and are more likely to discontinue or stop treatment once it is started,” says Paolo Del Vecchio, associate director for SAMSHA’s office of Consumer Affairs, which offers resources and programs to address mental health.

There are a variety of mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety problems to phobias and more serious issues such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, says Annelle Primm, director of minority and national affairs at the American Psychiatric Association.

Symptoms of mental instability can include changes in mood, sleep activity, energy level, or appetite; an inability to remember, concentrate, or think; and delusions or hallucinations. But Primm says that having just one of those symptoms in a fleeting sort of way, doesn’t mean that someone has a mental illness. But when the symptoms are grouped together over a long period a time a person should seek help.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.