Pride in Weakness - Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

I come from a long line of women who kneaded tortilla dough in the morning, tended to gardens in the afternoon and caressed their children’s faces in the evenings.

I also come from a long line of Mexican migrant workers who allowed the sun to kiss their necks and hands while in the fields.

I also come from a long line of individuals who take pride in their ability to take care of themselves with help from no one or anything.

Coming from a long line of resilient and fierce individuals may have caused a problem though. . .when I finally admitted to myself and my doctor that I needed something to help me overcome my postpartum depression and anxiety, I felt like a failure.

My mom and her mom and the generations before didn’t need to take medication for their mental health. I may be the first in my line of ancestors to need help with the secret battles that motherhood tends to throw us into. They were stronger than that - or maybe they were just unaware of a need for it.

In 2017, I started a regimen of counseling and medication to overcome the anxiety and depression that invaded my mind after my first-born came into our lives. Since then, I have been determined to share my story because it’s a story that isn’t heard of often in Latinx or minority communities. There are countless reasons why stories about mental health are rarely, if ever, shared by my people. In my world, it tends to come down to:

  1. Our pride. We don’t need no stinkin’ help.

  2. The fact that others have often looked at people of color as being weak and to admit that there’s something wrong with us mentally only gives in to their false narratives about our character. Don’t give them another reason to let them think we’re weak.

So, when I learned that July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, I knew there was no better time to share these statistics and let others who are just like me know that they are now alone:

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

  • In 2017, 41.5% of youth ages 12-17 received care for a major depressive episode, but only 35.1% of black youth and 32.7% of Hispanic youth received treatment for their condition.

  • Asian American adults were less likely to use mental health services than any other racial/ethnic group.

  • In 2017, 13.3% of youth ages 12-17 had at least one depressive episode, but that number was higher among American Indian and Alaska Native youth at 16.3% and among Hispanic youth at 13.8%.

  • In 2017, 18.9% of adults (46.6 million people) had a mental illness. That rate was higher among people of two or more races at 28.6%, non-Hispanic whites at 20.4% and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders at 19.4%.

Scary statistics, right? Before experiencing my own mental health struggles, I was completely unaware of what it meant to not be okay when it came to one’s mental health. I knew that depression and anxiety happened, but I didn’t know how important it was to let others know that they were not alone or that there was hope. I didn’t know how to help others or even start a conversation about it or even why conversations were important. I was ignorant about it until it came time to walk through that path myself.

Now, everything has changed. Now, I tell every new mom that I meet that they may have certain feelings that feel scary, but they can be temporary if they confide in someone for help. Now, I make sure to check on my friends who came from homes like mine or have a similar skin tone because I know how our communities can perceive mental health as not being as important as physical health. Now, I know that I am not alone and you aren’t either. Now, I take pride in my temporary weakness because I’ve been able to overcome scary thoughts and dark nights while reclaiming the the strength from those before me.

Want to learn more about stories from within the African-American or Latinx communities? Check out the National Alliance on Mental Health’s Strength Over Silence video series.