4 Racially-Charged Misconceptions About Mental Health

Via Piqsels

Abeni Jones
November 22, 2019

1. “Mental health is only a concern for white people.”

In 1848, a white doctor named John Galt claimed that “blacks are immune to mental illness,” because they had no property or money to stress them out. 

History and data has proven that it’s not true, and in fact racism and poverty are huge contributors to mental distress, which makes us even more susceptible to illnesses like depression. 

2. “Mental illness is a new thing.”

During slavery, enslaved people were diagnosed with the mental illness “Dysaethesia Aethiopia.” This was how slave owners described the enslaved as being upset and sad as a result of enslavement. Today it’s understood that they were likely suffering from depression.

3. “Mental illness is a sign of weakness.”

In 1895, white doctor T.O. Powell argued that increased levels of “insanity” among free Black people was the result of being freed - they no longer worked as hard, he said.

We know today that mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of strength or work ethic, just like any other illness.

4. “People with mental illness just need to go to church.”

During and after slavery, the church was one of the only institutions available to Black people, and religion was seen as a solution to all of our problems. But mental illness has biochemical causes that prayer can’t always solve.

If you or someone you know needs help, remember these are myths - and don’t be afraid to ask for help! Our mental health matters.

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