Screaming Sounds of Terror/Resistance Blog Series - a project of PeopleSkool

Tiny - Posted on 07 April 2011

The African-American community suffers disproportionately from both mental health and mental health treatment.  This article is a journey through the struggle of African-American males and mental illness in Amerikkka.

I walked down a hall that smelled of medicine; vicious screams resonating in my ear. I was on the 6th floor psychiatric ward at San Francisco General Hospital. The nurse with her glasses peaking over her nose, “How may I help you?“ “I am here to visit my husband Jerome,“ I replied. Fear and sadness struck me as I thought about the mental complexity that he and so many other Black Brothers experience in this racially oppressive society called America.

“One of the greatest and most under treated threats affecting African American men today is mental illness,” according to “Four hundred fifty million people are affected by mental, neurological or behavioral problems at any time. African Americans make up more than half the mental illness cases world wide.”

After being married to my African-American husband for 5 years, I too was experiencing the effects of dealing with an African-American man with a severe mental disorder. My mind could not help but wonder what shape my husband would be in as I noticed the people running down the hallway rocking back and forth in their invisible chair--screaming sounds of terror and talking to people that only they saw.

My heart jumped with fear; it felt like a rubber band being pulled back and forth. “Down the hall to the left room 609,” the nurse replied to my question. I walked carefully down the hall not wanting any sudden moves to be misread by the psychiatric men and women roaming the floor. I wondered if the beatings and injustices that the police had done to my husband had led him to the mental catastrophe that he was enduring while being locked up in this mental institution. “African Americans are disproportionately exposed to social conditions considered to be important risk factors for physical and mental illness,” according to Glen Ellis of

I continued my journey down the hall and my legs felt like they were being captured by quicksand; chills of horror ruffled over my body in uncontrollable waves. As I got closer and closer to the room my mind could not help but wonder what shape my husband would be in. I stopped slowly outside the room. I could see the dark cold room smelling of stale must and I could see my husband from afar sitting on the bed rocking back and forth. His hair was woolly and a knotted mess; his facial hair was wild and rugged. The clothing looked as if it was a week behind on being washed. Don’t look like he brushed his teeth in weeks.

There is a dearth of providers of color and culturally competent providers. Lack of insurance coverage and inadequate means of financing care often leads men to forego care. Finding care that is affordable, respectful, and accessible is a major challenge for African American men,” according to the Black Mental Health Alliance. My mind pondered on the financial cost of this institution, wondering how in the hell were we going to pay for the medical bill. As far as I am concerned institutions are not designed to really help my husband. It is a financial money-making society and they are committed to making money off of the African American to this day. The biggest way that they make money off of the African Americans who are suffering with mental disorders is by keeping them doped up on medications so that they really have no way of fully functioning and being fully alive.

I walked in the room. “Hi,” I said. He looked at me as if he had saw a ghost. “How you doing,” I replied with the perkiest voice I could muster. Trying to keep the conversation afloat I said, “So they treating my boo o.k. in here?” Stillness remained in his face. I began to wonder if he lost his hearing. “What did you eat today?” Still no response. “Did you eat?” Still no response. As I heard no response from my husband question after question I grew more in pain. How could I get through? Do I need to stay, leave; does he know who I am; what kind damn medication do they have him doped up on? As the questions rang in my mind I became more and more sad. Finally I could not take it any longer. I had been watching him rock back and forth, looking through me as if I was a glass window. I felt that I had no choice but to do what I figured would shake him into reality. I stood up and I got arm distance from my husband and with the most powerful strength I had, I slapped the shit out of him. He stood to his feet with swiftness and said “ouch” in a loud voice. “Woman what in the hell is wrong with you?” I thought to myself, that’s my husband. I gave him a kiss. “I love you. I’ll be back to see you tomorrow.”

“Four hundred fifty million people are affected by mental, neurological or behavioral problems at any time. African Americans make up more than half the mental illness cases world wide.”

That means there are over two hundred and twenty-five million African Americans with mental illness -- even though the population of the US is approximately three hundred million, of which only about 12% (i.e. thirty-six million) is African-American. Anyone see a problem here?

Not enough attention is paid to this issue. Mainstream media frames our people as criminals and we know what the police do when they encounter our people who are dealing with mental illness--they get shot or seriously injured.  We do not need a Eurocentric view and diagnosis of our people but a way of healing that involves our indigenous values and ways of care giving.  Thank you for writing this.

Yeah, besides which the black chick is hot.

Just another example of how common sense has to come into play sometimes to pull a nigga up out of the hole so-called service provision can put him (or her) in.

I waver between exhorting our children to get the degrees so they can get the jobs and go into these abusive places and spaces, and hopefully relieve some of the suffering of our peoples already in the shit, and screaming at 'em to tear the whole thing down.

I suspect if you scream at them to tear the whole thing down, they'll end up as inmates of the "whole thing"


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