Psychology Today defines empathy as the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from his or her point of view, rather than from one’s own. Lacking is a strong word used to emphasize unavailability and absence within various situations involving relationships, education, finances, and many more.
Personally, growing up as an African-American female who wears the hijab, of course I have been challenged in today’s society through lack of empathy. I have faced obstacles regarding my race, gender, and the religion I associate myself with. However, I believe that America’s lack of empathy for teen mental health causes a bigger problem in our society today. While race, gender, and religious discrimination is plastered over social media, teenage mental health is not; this leads me to believe that the mental health of teenagers is undervalued.
A general common trait amongst African-Americans is the negative stigma against mental health; because of this stigma, mental health is rarely discussed within this community. This stigma automatically enforces the teenage minds of African-Americans to naturally believe that confronting your emotions makes you weak.“Stay in a child’s place,” is a common phrase used by African-American parents to their children while they are going through a primary education.
Unfortunately, this phrase is implemented into our minds for years to come and provides reasoning to us as to why we should not express to our parents about how we feel. This phrase is extremely dangerous when it comes to mental health because it emphasizes to us that although the child is being seen, they are not heard. Since we are used to “staying in a child’s place” while we are young, when we become teenagers, we automatically just do it since it is what we’re used to. Staying in a child’s place could look like failing to express emotion because the teen has a fear of not being “heard” or simply understood.
Research has found that many African Americans rely on faith rather than turning to health care professionals (NAMI). I am not surprised by this statistic. In Islam, it is mandatory to pray five times a day in order to reconnect with Allah and remember that everything that happens in your life is in His hands. Many parents are big advocates on the status that, “Allah has written everything that will happen to you in this life.” However, simply praying to Allah would not miraculously change the way I am feeling until I seek solutions on my own and then pray to Allah that it all works well; I personally feel like you cannot ask Allah to lose weight when all you do is sleep and eat horribly. You have to eat right and exercise in order to accomplish that goal and have faith it all works well by the will of Allah.
The same applies to mental health, seeking solutions outside of faith (first) would actually increase our chances of seeing the results we desire. The likelihood of healthy mental habits improving is through the action of speaking to a psychologists since there is guaranteed trust because they legally cannot share your information with anyone unless it involves danger, and even seeking medical treatment if clinically needed.
It is rare to see parents ask their children about how they’re doing, it seems like they expect them to be okay because they keep to themselves about their emotional problems since they have always been taught to “stay in a child’s place” when young.
See the correlation there?
Can you relate?
Growing up, I was taught that talking back is disrespectful and you are always supposed to accept what the elders tell you regardless of how what they say makes you feel. Abiding by the expectations of being obedient is hard because if you seem out of place in any way, it’s easy for parents to pinpoint your faults and easily make you emotionally unstable about how you feel about yourself which could easily lead to depression.
The deliverance of “staying in a child’s place,” needs to change because it uprises too many issues within the African American teenage community. The overall removal of the stigma for mental health would greatly impact the youth community and will spread awareness of the importance of mental health so future generations will not have to face the same problems teenagers face today in the African-American community.
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What if you aren’t African- American? Can you relate to this?
This isn’t only for African-Americans. This could apply to anyone. However, all my research is collected from National Alliance of Mental Illness.
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