It is Real: Mental Health Illness in the African American Community…

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( African Americans are the least likely to acknowledge they are depressed. Two important factors account for depression in the black community including economic and cultural impoverishment. The Full Circle Life Enrichment Center, a not-for profit organization, based in New York, educates African American families about mental health disease and treatment available for it.

Full Circle Life Enrichment Center was co-founded by Dr. Derek H. Suite.  He is a board certified psychiatrist and functions as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Representative for the Black Psychiatrists of America (BPA). 

Dr. Suite tells that in regard to his career, “I started out in emergency medicine. I came to the realization after helping patients that the body is not the only thing that needs attention.”

The psychiatrist believes that African Americans are now more than ever likely to be depressed over job loss, family problems, and a lack of self-worth, because of the current economic situation in the United States. It is recommended that you seek professional help if there are visible signs of alcohol or drug abuse. There are many options for treatment; such as counseling, Narconon rehab or a spiritual leader.

Dr. Suite explains his position, “I believe that the African American community is afraid to speak out on this issue, because they mistrust the system. They feel misunderstood. African Americans have been used as guinea pigs, in such cases as the Tuskegee Experiment. There are so many atrocities across history [against blacks]; it is hard for us to trust.”

In the black community there has always been a mantra of toughing things out. African American males are the least likely to talk about their problems or illnesses. Dr. Derek suggests that the signs for mental health illness are hard to detect in males.

“It is complicated; males don’t show typical signs. However, there are symptoms including lack of sleep, problems with concentration, angry, irritability, and a reduction in communication, aggressiveness and hypertension.

Another factor that stands out, African Americans do not receive the proper care for medical issues, because they do not have health insurance. The U.S. Department of Health’s website reports, “In 2007, 19.5 percent of African-Americans in comparison to 10.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites were uninsured.”

Dr. Derek H. Suite also believes that, “Women tend to live longer, because they go out and get help.”

Access to healthcare, education, and advice is available if an individual wants to get help regarding mental illness.

Through the Full Circle Life Enrichment Center, Dr. Derek H. Suite, says, “We go out in the community and give free workshops, trainings and counseling. These programs were created to inform our community about mental health issues in our community, and provide access to mental health education.”

Dr. Suite’s organization is not afraid of the community; he reveals that the organization goes out to, “…churches, schools, and barbershops. We work with social service agencies too.”

Through a three part process of life that includes the physical, mental, and spiritual, Dr. Derek H. Suite is bridging them together, by acknowledging that each facet has to be nurtured in order to be healthy.

On October 6, 2011, in New York City, the Full Life Enrichment Center will celebrate their 10th year anniversary. A gala will be held at the Chelsea Piers Lighthouse from 6 pm to 10 pm. The purpose of the event is to raising awareness and funding regarding mental health illnesses.

Learn more about the Full Life Enrichment Center:

Associate Editor; kYmberly Keeton

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