Sharing and Spreading Hope in the African American Community

FEB. 25, 2016

By Luna Greenstein

The African American community experiences mental health conditions at comparable rates to the general population, but receives significantly less treatment. One of the reasons is because of the stigma and lack of acceptance that permeates within the community. In order to improve this problem, NAMI’s program Sharing Hope, reaches out to African American communities to encourage mental health education and reduce stigma on mental illness.

Recently, the local ABC channel in Chicago aired a story about this issue. Tiffany Brown Walker is an African American woman who bravely shares her story living with bipolar disorder regularly to members of the local faith community. It is her goal to start the conversation about mental health, both increasing awareness and breaking stigma. "There's not very many faces of color for people living with mental illness, either for themselves or their family members, so sharing my story is very important,” she says in the ABC video.

Tiffany goes to different churches to present Bridges of Hope, a program specifically designed for reaching out to faith communities. Tiffany emphasizes the importance of combining both faith and treatment when it comes to recovery. "I prayed for God to take it away long before I realized that this was a medical issue,” she adds. “That's why I start with my faith and end it with the medical. They have to be together. You can't pray it away."

Another story from NBC Channel 6 in Illinois addresses this important topic while mentioning the Sharing Hope program. Married couple Ricky and Jacqueline McCoy have been sharing their story of Ricky’s experience with a duel diagnoses and time spent incarcerated with little treatment and psychiatric care.

The reason that the McCoys’ decided to start presenting their story through Sharing Hope is because for them, that is how the African American community finds solutions to problems. “Historically in the African-American community, we solve things as a community,” says Jacqueline in the NBC video. “Sort of through the church and we bring our issues to our church leaders and try to solve them within our family unit.”

Another big part of the African American community other than the church has also been getting involved with mental health and with NAMI is the nation’s oldest African American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. AKA chapter president, Vickie Schwass, explains that the reason AKA partnered with NAMI is to help gain access to education and resources for members of the community. “You know, it could happen to me, another chapter member, a family member of a chapter member, and so we want to be educated as well.” 


MAR, 11, 2016 06:34:55 AM
Dear group members,

Why do you all emphasize suicide so much having family members committed to that you can take over their priority and their live and thus have them hate you for the rest of your lives?

Why would anyone who cares a bout a family member who is not about to jump off a building call the police on them and tell the police--who if they are not EMT's have no medical education and think that if you have a medicla health problem you are absolutely nuts no exception and so therefore it is o.k. to do things like attack and and cuff a child behind his back because he is guilty of not concentrating when he thinks because he has ADD and the Sherriff doesn't know what that is and so treats him like a criminal and ties up roughly.

Why do family members get together without the permission of the person whose life and health it is and talk to total strangers whose confidentially is not guaranteed and tell them person revealing and totally embarrassing to the person they are talking about details about the medicines they are taking and the behavior they have knowing full well that most of these people are in small communities where they will know everyone who is around and their families and the gossip mile will totally and completely destroy their lives?

Why does NAMI care so little about the people they are supposed to serve that they say to "call the police if a family member doesn't take their medicine." First of all, if a person is not a danger to themselves or others It is their choice to decide whether or not to take medicine. It is like having an abortion. A sister or brother or cousin cannot decide that their sister or brother or cousin should have an abortion and then perform it on them when they don't want it or don't even know it is happening. The same should be true of other areas. A sister or brother should not be allowed to determine what someone should wear eat do--or who they should not get a chance to love.

FEB, 29, 2016 05:22:26 PM
Brenda G Waldrup
I am a 57 year old African American Female and would love to share my story of living with Mental Illness. It's been a real struggle for me but for my family and everyone else around me.

FEB, 26, 2016 02:11:18 PM
I love this story! It has added to my purpose. I am a member of AKA, an African-American, and a suicide survivor.

Recently I began my art business as a platform to share information about mental illness and suicide prevention in the African -American community because of the stigma. I have had the honor to tell people where they can receive help, share hugs and testimonies, and even have someone tell me "I wrote my suicide letter tonight, but since you made it I know I can too." I know I must keep sharing.

Thank you for such a great read!

FEB, 26, 2016 02:07:32 PM
I love this! This is why I started my art business. As a suicide survivor and an Afro-American I have found my voice is important when breaking the stigma within my community. The results have been individuals saying thanks, me pointing them in the direction for help, and even someone telling me "I wrote my suicide note today but since you made it I know I can"

This is a great article and really helped me know I must keep sharing my story!

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