WTF Is Mental Health?

I have a lot of thoughts, and I have decided to start a new series titled Thursday Thoughts (and the goal is to have these thoughts published every Thursday).  The first thought for this month focuses on mental illness; something that the Black community doesn’t talk about enough. So let’s have a conversation.

The term “mental illness” has been gaining a lot of ground lately, with big name celebrities such as Jenifer Lewis, Mariah Carey and Kanye West revealing their battles with Bipolar disorder. Even Tyronn Lue, the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers disclosed that his two-week absence in March was due to anxiety and depression. These are just a few of the more publicized stories from individuals that are currently fighting these battles every single day. For each survivor, there are many, many others that don’t live on to fight another day.  

Since the term “mental illness is real” is becoming more and more common, I wanted to shed some light on the term, and provide examples of what mental illness truly is. According to the Mayo Clinic, mental illness is defined as,

“a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.”

Mental illness covers wide spectrum, and anyone can be suffering from some form at any point in their life. Mayo also goes on explain that mental illness can be hereditary, can be a result of your environment (if you were exposed to toxins before birth), or a chemical imbalance within your brain. The most common types of mental illnesses that celebrities are coming forward with as suffering from are anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. There are a lot more to list, but these three seem to be the most common lately.

Anxiety - There are several different types of anxiety; but it can be defined as being in a constant state of fear and worry. The feeling never dissipates, and can gradually get worse over time without treatment. More specifics about anxiety and the different types of anxiety disorders can be found at

Depression - This type of mental illness negatively affects the way you feel, causing sadness and a loss of interest in things that once brought you joy. Depression is also treatable, but can cause a plethora of physical and emotional problems if left untreated and undiagnosed. More information about depression can be found at the American Psychiatric Association’s website

Bipolar Disorder - There are four types of bipolar disorder, and each one causes dramatics shifts in a person’s mood -- known as mania and depression. Bipolar disorder can be treated and managed with medication. More information about the diagnosis, symptoms, and treatments for the different types of Bipolar Disorder can be found here.

While I am glad that celebrities are making it a little easier for everyone to come forward with their suffering, no one should have to suffer alone. It is easy to assume that a smiling face and cheerful attitude can equate to happiness, but we never know what is going on unless someone asks, and has the courage to speak up. Please remind your friends, loved ones, and acquaintances that it is okay to ask for help. It is not okay to feel sad and unhappy all time time, have drastic mood swings, or to live in fear.  If you feel as though you are suffering from any of the symptoms below, please reach out to your doctor, a friend, or anyone that can assist you in getting the help you need.

Mental Illness Symptoms

  • Feeling sad or down

  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate

  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt

  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows

  • Withdrawal from friends and activities

  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping

  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia or hallucinations

  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress

  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people

  • Alcohol or drug abuse

  • Major changes in eating habits

  • Sex drive changes

  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence

  • Suicidal thinking

Also check out this short titled WTF is Mental Health? starring Queen Sugar’s Kofi Siriboe. The actor is hoping to  shed more light on this taboo subject in the Black community.