Depression and African Americans BY ANNELLE PRIMM, M.D., M.P.H. Director, Minority and National Affairs American Psychiatric Association Depression is a highly common medical condition affecting nearly one out of 10 adults each year, and twice as many women as men. African Americans are no exception. Depression can cause long-standing changes in feelings, self-esteem, activity level and even sleep and appetite. Depression is treatable with medication, psychotherapy and other treatments, which result in 80-90% of people eventually responding well and almost all gaining some relief from their symptoms. However, African Americans carry a heavy burden when it comes to depression because they are less likely than Caucasians to seek mental health services or to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. They are also more likely to have depression for longer periods, resulting in greater disability. The disparities in mental health for African Americans are based on factors of economics and cultural experiences. High levels of poverty and marginal incomes just above the poverty line affect many African Americans, making them more likely to wait to seek treatment for mental health needs until they reach a crisis point and emergency intervention is needed. They often do not have ready access to primary care where mental health problems can be identified and treated in the early stages. Often family values and traditions are a barrier to seeking help as well. There is a long practice of being stoic and "toughing out" troubles that implies that seeking mental health services is a sign of weakness. Source: http://www.journeytowellness.com/mental-health-article/depression-and-african-americans.html I have suffered from Depression for almost half of my life. It started after a traumatic incident happened to me. When I was 15 doctors tried prescribing me Paxil, which I took for a very short period and stopped because of how it made me feel. I went to many counseling sessions and felt good about talking to someone about how I was feeling, but that only helped a little. I had a terrible melt down that almost sent me over the edge and near suicide. Depression was ruining my relationships with my family and friends, employment, health, sleep, and I then turned to heavy drinking, which didn't help and just made it worse. People would tell me to "just get over it", but Depression isn't something many people can just get over. I would have long periods of feeling overwhelmingly down. I would cry for no reason at all. And the thoughts of suicide would begin again, but this was something I knew I would never go through and do. At least I would hope that I never got to that point of actually doing something like that. I'd eat and eat. Or I would sleep all day and not get out of bed to get things done. I dreaded waking up and having to suffer another day of life again. (this was my mentality during depression). My body ached. And I just felt like there was a huge back full of sand that I was lugging around everywhere. I went to one counselor who told me that I was "manic depressive" and "bipolar". I hate hearing psychologists try to give you a name. As an African-American, I do find it difficult to tell people that I have this problem. I feel like I would be judged or they would tell me that it's all in my head. I never heard any African-American actually tell me that they too had felt this way. But I know of many close friends who had committed suicide. So they must have been depressed. Anyways, right now I have just been taken natural supplements to help out. I have been taking Flax Seed Oil and Fish Oil both have Omega-3, and vitamin D. It helps me to be in a way better mood. Also, I try to exercise and eat healthy. I hate anti-depressants. Even though I feel fine now, I know it's still there. I think we should be more aware and more supportive of our people who do suffer from Depression in our communities. It turns folks towards drugs, alcohol and other known issues that can harm our communities.