They pointed to the specific causes of their depression as being relationship-based and attributed to problems with partners, children, grandchildren and friends. The issues that made them feel depressed were deaths through murder, drug overdose and deaths of young children.
How does one cope with depression given an environment that entraps one in despair and deprivation?
The answers from those who were interviewed were strong and clear. They reach out to family and they depend upon their religious institutions to give them strength, care and comfort. The importance of intimate relationships with others and with God was the dominant theme.
A significant number of individuals pray during the day, with friends and in their churches and they ask for strength and for help for their friends and family Many of these individuals also noted that they stay busy and this gives them a sense of being in control of the situation.
Black Americans, as per this study, say that they have experienced the pain of depression for a long time. African Americans have developed their coping strategies based upon their experiences with racism and discrimination, the stigma associated with mental illness, interactions with a culturally insensitive mental health system and their cultural traditions regarding mental health.
We can learn much from the lived experiences of African Americans in our society.
- We can appreciate how they view the majority population and that insight leads to self-evaluation and an opportunity to connect with them differently. Perhaps in relating to an African American individual, we can ask about their family, their spiritual foundation and where they get their strengths.
- We can empathize with the difficulties in their lives.
- We can learn why they avoid the mental health system and put more effort into building trust. We can be consistent with them and not promise what we cannot deliver.
- We can confirm their own views and acknowledge that the system is insensitive and ask what would make it better for them. We can find alternatives to medication and research ways to provide counseling with people with whom they can relate.
- We can learn about the importance of intimate caring relationships to strengthen and support the resilience of people in states of emotional pain.
Depressed man photo available from Shutterstock