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Ramon Johnson

For black gay men, depression is muffled by silence

By May 19, 2010

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Depression is one of those sticky diseases that crawls through private lives and affects more than how its sufferers feel inside. For many, namely black gay men, depression is suffered in silence, making the disease all the more powerful as it quietly manifests through relationships, work, and every other part of our lives.

Depression is a tricky illness because it rarely speaks above an innuendo or whisper in the loudness of others' perceptions. I remember how the late E. Lynn Harris, who I admired so dearly, talked openly of his depression and how he coped. I remember thinking how so few people knew and how hard it was to digest, especially coming from a bestselling author and African-American trailblazer. The screams of my own ideas of what balance and happiness meant were muffled by the reality that depression is an equal opportunity offender.

It's a "silent killer and destabilizer of lives," writer Antoine Craigwell says in his article Breaking the silence of depression in the Black gay community, a disease that many black people have a "significant resistance to addressing."

Why are black gay men keeping quiet?

Craigwell says it's a viscous cycle. Culturally, African-Americans believe that "one does not speak his business, especially his personal business about himself, out of the family" and that in many black families an over-emphasis on "masculinity and survival in challenging times" make talking about one's personal feelings "a weakness or a significant flaw." Depression is weakening to begin with, being disempowered by others only makes things worse.

Therapy? Are you crazy?

Then there is the taboo that by seeking therapy one must be institutionally crazy; but there is a hard line between mental illness and psychological disorder. Craigwell speaks to the misconception that therapy-seekers must be crazy to get help for what many perceive is just a bad mood, ignoring the fact that depression in the black gay community is "psychosocial, socioeconomic, cultural, and racial," as Craigwell puts it.

Strength in expression

Antoine Craigwell is on target with his attempt at creating, through his article, a safe haven for black gay men to discuss depression. It's a disease that gets stronger with silence and helps its sufferers unravel in environments where confusion and misinformation exist. Silence for us black gay men is our perpetual Kryptonite. Whereas our strength lies in our ability to express ourselves, articulate our feelings, and embrace our personal differences.

Read more of Breaking the silence of depression in the Black gay community after the jump.

Breaking Free of Depression
How To Find a Gay-Affirmative Therapist
Gay-Specific Health Insurance Plans
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