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Richard Smallwood shares his struggle with Mental Health

May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month and we wanted to make sure we did our part to bring awareness to this illness.

A mental health condition is usually stigmatized in a negative light and categorized with a certain look. However, someone that you may know and love could be suffering right now with depression or some other form of mental illness.

It isn’t the result of one event. Research suggests multiple, linking causes. Genetics, environment and lifestyle influence whether someone develops a mental health condition. A stressful job or home life makes some people more susceptible, as do traumatic life events like being the victim of a crime. Biochemical processes and circuits and basic brain structure may play a role, too.

The very successful Gospel Music Director and Composer Richard Smallwood posted on his Facebook page recently, that he has struggled with depression. "If I can be transparent, you see that big smile on my face (in the posted picture). However it was around that specific time, (in) my early thirties when I began to notice a profound sadness among other symptoms that would come over me."

Here are the facts:

  • Approx 62M Americans (26.2%) Suffer from a mental illness each year -- whether or not they are ever diagnosed (NIMH)

  • Anxiety Disorders comprise the most frequently occurring diagnosis; with 18.1% of Americans and women more likely to suffer this type of disorder than men (NAMI)

  • 16M adults live with major depression

  • African-American and Hispanics utilize mental health services at half the rate of Caucasian Americans (NAMI)

  • Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US; the 3rd leading cause of death in the US; the 3rd leading cause in people age 10-24 and the 2nd leading cause in people age 15-24

Unfortunately, many people never seek help because of the shame and fear that they would be looked upon as crazy.

Smallwood says, "Anxiety was something that had plagued me since childhood, but I didn't even know what that was as a kid, nor did I have a name for it. It took over twenty years before I finally sought help and was diagnosed with clinical depression. At first I didn't know what it was and chalked it up to being a moody musician. Then when I began to suspect what it really was, because of denial, fear, stigma and shame I was afraid to let anyone know and I suffered for many years untreated."

There is a misunderstanding and mistrust of psychology in the black church –many people have outdated notions of what psychology is and believe it leads people away from God, because it’s based in science rather than purely in biblical teaching.

An invisible illness is still and illness

Mental illness should be thought of as just that - and illness like seeking treatment for any other physical sickness in your body.

"Don't wait like I did, said Smallwood. Don't be afraid to reach out. Don't be afraid to get help. With professional help, prayer and God you can live a better life! It's a disease just like diabetes, hypertension or other physical diseases except it's mental and it CAN be treated. Don't forsake your mental health. Let's take the stigma away! Peace and Love."

If you or someone you know has experience extreme sadness or anxiety for more than 2 weeks, please contact NAMI: National Alliance for Mental Illness

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