The absence of Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., from congress since May is causing quite a stir among his constituents, democrats, and republicans. It has now been revealed that the Illinois Congressmen is hospitalized for a mood disorder. If true, Jesse Jackson Jr. missed a great opportunity to help black males’ education on mental illness, specifically depression. In fact, it is safe to say, his actions have helped maintain the impenetrable stigma of mental illness. By the same token, depression is slowly decimated Black males and our time is running out to raise awareness.
According to the Office of the Surgeon General, depression is likely a key factor in a 233 percent increase in suicide in African-Americans males aged 10-14 from 1980 to 1995. Suicide was also the third leading cause of death for African-Americans in 2003. A serious weakness with most young African-American males is their lack of health insurance unlike Representative’s Jackson. As a result, uninsured young Black males overrun emergency rooms as their lives become unhinged and unmanageable. Like an unmanned freight train these young men wreak havoc in our communities from murder to total anarchy and our communities are under siege daily. Depression may not be the sole factor but I theorize it’s a contributing factor.
Ø 54% of people believe depression is a personal weakness.
Ø 41% of depressed women are too embarrassed to seek help.
Ø 80% of depressed people are not currently having any treatment.
Ø 92% of depressed African-American males do not seek treatment.
Ø 15% of depressed people will commit suicide.
Ø Depression will be the second largest killer after heart disease by 2020 — and studies show depression is a contributory factor to fatal coronary disease.
Unfortunately, one of the limitations of the Black communities is to maintain the public secrets (i.e., AIDS, under education, fatherless homes). In other words, we do not openly talk about what everyone else can plainly see. Like Ostrich, we sink our heads in the proverbial sands of denial and stigmatization. We whisper our pray that it will go away. Sadly, our Christmas stocking provides only a lump of coal for our passive actions. Yet, we pray, but not for an awareness campaign on mental illness but for a better deceptive instrument.
In the interim, this brings me back to Representative Jackson; above all, he has unwillingly contributed to the stigma of mental illness. For the most part, young Black men need information on mental illness, unlimited stockpiles of literature on the disease. Black males need education on depression symptoms and treatment options. The Black community needs to stop hiding what’s in plain sight. Sadly, Jesse Jackson Jr., wasted an opportunity to provide knowledge and wisdom to brothers. On the contrary, his maneuver help continue to fuel that mental illness is to be kept from the public’s view. It is safe to say he has an aborted education on mental illness.
Many African American males are suffering from mental illness in silence. They hide in our communities in open public staggering from one episode to the next. Daily they walk by us dazed and confused beautiful souls screaming for external intervention. Yet our piousness display the frozen no vacancy sign to our brothers. At the same time, their intoxication brought on by depression has them locked inside a vault filled with only hopelessness.
In essence, we must bring these brothers the combination to their incarcerated consciousness. The silence on Black men and depression must be shattered once and for all. In brief, we must hold everyone feet to the fire to speak out about depression in the Black community…we must educate them. This means Jesse Jackson Jr., also, he needs an education on mental illness, along with treatment. My hopes are for a speedy recovery for him and his family.