Dressed to Kill but Dying on the Inside ~ Confronting Mental Illness In the Black Community

Dressed to Kill but Dying on the Inside

There is an African Proverb that says, “If there is no enemy on the inside, the enemy on the outside can do us no harm.”

The problem with the Black collective is that the enemy on the inside is one that we refuse to acknowledge — one we like to pretend does not exist. The mention of mental illness is taboo in the Black community. Do you really believe that we could endure 246 years of chattel slavery, 12 years of reconstruction, decades of Black codes and convict leasing, followed by 70 years of Jim Crow segregation and not experience the negative effects of such a traumatic experience? We are in need of holistic healing — emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically. Both, our men and women, are suffering from complex trauma and because we refuse to acknowledge it, our children are suffering the consequences.

Our children need to be able to trust us to protect them and cover them long enough for them to develop the capacity to defend themselves. Unfortunately, we are failing in our responsibility to cover and protect our babies. We have seen a rise in the deaths of toddlers at the hands of their guardians. We have experienced a rise in harm being caused to toddlers by fathers, stepfathers, and boyfriends.

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Dressed to kill but dying on the inside
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Furthermore, there seems to be an indifference displayed by mothers toward these small children. It is time to wake up and acknowledge that while we are a peculiar and remarkable people, we are not whole. We are functioning at a fraction of our capacity and that is working to our disadvantage.

Black men, it is okay to admit that you can’t do it by yourself. It is fine to admit that you are struggling to gain your emotional equilibrium. What is not okay is for you to continue on pretending that nothing is wrong and hoping that your complete world doesn’t collapse underneath the pressure.

Black women, I am keenly cognizant of the darkness that often engulfs you as you attempt to take on more than your design can support. While you continue to scream slogans like Black Girls Rock, Black Girl Magic, and the Strong Black Woman rules, the truth is that the pressure is creating in you something nefarious and destructive. You also need healing. You need to experience what it feels like to be whole. You need to know what it means to live under the covering of a Black man that will give all that he is to protect you. You are dressed to kill, but you are dying on the inside. You look like a million bucks, but you are struggling to recognize your value and place in the world. We owe it to our children to become whole. We cannot continue to allow our children to suffer as a result of our refusal to seek healing.

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We are procreating as if we have a utopia welcome our progeny into. It is not wise or healthy to bring children into this dysfunction and expect them to rise to the challenge in a world that is inherently hostile to them. We must do a better job.

This is why The Odyssey Project will be offering support to those who need mental health services. The first step is to admit that you need health and then you must seek help and commit to the process. Change starts now! ~ Rick Wallace, Ph.D., Psy.D.

Support the work of The Odyssey Project and its community programs, including the Black Men Lead rite of passage program for young Black males, Restoring Ghettos Forgotten Daughters, Music is Life, Financial Literacy 101 & Beyond, and more at https://www.theodysseyproject21.top/donate or you can contribute directly through the Cash app at $TheOdysseyProject21

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  • Born in Captivity: Psychopathology as a Legacy of Slavery