During my psychiatry rotation, I came across many individuals from different walks of life. Most of them were admitted for substance or alcohol use disorder and a few with mood disorders. There was one particular case that a colleague of mine was covering that really hit home for me.
She was following an African American male in his early-mid twenties, who self-admitted due to Major Depressive Disorder and Suicidal Ideations. He was a senior at a prestigious university, a member of a fraternity and played on his university’s football team. From the outside, you may think he had it all together; his future looked bright and he was headed for nothing but success. Deep down, he was suffering.
When I heard of his case and sat in on his follow-up, I experienced a major case of Countertransference, which occurs when a healthcare professional transfers emotions onto a patient. I have a 23-year-old brother who was a senior at a university at the time, so I placed him in this young man’s place. I worried about what the men in my life maybe experiencing in silence, The thought of it frightens me.
I had a chance to speak with this patient briefly; I wanted to try to understand what he was going through. He shared with me the pressure he was under and how stressful life had gotten. Most black men that enter college sometimes feel like they have the troubles of the world on their shoulders because they do! Many of them carry the hopes and dreams of their families and community members, they are seen as the lottery ticket to a better life.
It is estimated that 5%-10% of black men suffer from depression. There are many factors that can lead to this, especially in college-aged black men; discrimination on campus or the lack of others that look like them, not excluding the financial, academic and extracurricular stress. This young man mentioned that he was interested in entering the upcoming NFL draft and during this time his stress level escalated. Without the proper support system and his shaky upbringing, he dove deep into depression.
I first had to commend him for seeking help; many do not and follow through with the plan for suicide. I spoke to him as if I would my brother, cousin or friend. I wanted to use that moment to let him know that he is a valued member of society and that the world needs young men like him. We worked on ways to cope and I asked him to use his experiences to talk to other young men that may be battling similar things and to use his experiences to help others.
There is something that society must recognize and change; we place a huge burden on men especially black men. We tell them not to show any emotions, not to cry and at every moment they must have it all together. We say that they should be “men”, but what is so manly about not showing any emotions and not having moments of weakness. It makes it very difficult to seek help when your illness isn’t welcomed and is perceived as a weakness.
Not to mention the taboo in the various religious communities when it comes to mental illness. I’ve often heard the phrase “we don’t go to therapy; we go to church”. I am a strong believer in prayer and faith but we have to understand that we have must also put our faith into action. James 2:14-26 discusses the relationship between faith and work. “Faith without works is dead”, the two goes hand in hand. If there is someone in your religious community, please encourage them to seek help.
Major Depressive Disorder also referred to as clinical depression or just depression is more common in females ages 19-25. They can experience loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Along with the lack of concentration, indecisiveness, insomnia or excessive sleeping. Loss of interest or pleasure, restlessness, thoughts of death or suicide almost each day and significant fluctuation in weight.
If you or anyone in your life is suffering from MDD or is experiencing some of these clinical symptoms please seek medical attention right away, it could be a matter of life or death. Along with seeking medical care, I recommend reassurance. Reassure them that they have someone like you that they can confide in, someone to listen/talk to. Let them know that life is worth living and that they are a valuable part of the community.
So many people are suffering in silence and too may are committing suicide because of the lack of support. This is a serious illness and someone you know may be suffering, so take the time to stop being so consumed with meaningless things and love on someone today.
THE WORLD NEEDS LOVE!