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Tasia Grant on Mental Health Being a Taboo in the Black Culture

March 6, 2019

Tasia Grant plays the character Cynthia Weldon, the wife of Dr. Weldon, who is the doctor for a recent male high school student, Trevor, whose diagnosed with bipolar in the film Bricked.  She discusses topics that are raised in the film.

ATM: What has been your observation on the treatment or discussion of mental health in the black community?

TG: In our community mental health is rarely addressed or even acknowledged.  There seems to be a stigma in our community related to admitting you have some mental issues.  We hold image of strength which is a gift but can also be a burden. We have proven that we are survivors and can endure most anything…because we have endured slavery, racism, and abuse. So, how can we admit that we have a weakness? I hate the word ‘weakness.’ In my acting class . . . I ask my students “What is your greatest strength?”  Then I ask, “What is your greatest obstacle?”  This means you can overcome it. Even with mental illness, I feel it should never be described as a weakness, but as a greater issue, dealing with mental processing and coping.

What I love about the message of the movie is that healing can only happen if you want it to. No one can make you get better unless you want to get better and believe you are going to get better. First, you have to acknowledge it is happening. It is good we have movies like ‘Bricked, showing us that it is okay to admit there is an issue and It is okay to seek help and see a therapist. Don’t worry about our image and what we look like, what other people think about us.  It is being preconceived as not being strong enough to endure, especially in the Black community. For us, it is so pivotal that we see images of ourselves getting help and knowing it is okay.

Another thing I love about the movie is that the mother has an epiphany. She was an enabler before. . . She says a line in her movie to her son – she is not going to baby or coddle him.  She is not going to tell him he does not have an issue. She makes him face it and pushed him out there instead of protecting and shielding him from the world. She saved his life by not enabling or overprotecting him.

ATM: A lot of times in the black community, the things that should seem wrong to most of the world, is deemed accurate and suppressed. There are people that become enablers in a way for the person who is suffering from a mental illness.

TG: Yes. It is a disservice to them.

ATM: Maybe it is the love. There should still be a balance. There is no reason someone should handle it in an enabled way when having a mental illness.

TG: You are showing love to help them.  I am a parent. So, I get it.  But you are not showing them the best love when you are enabling them, allowing them to stay where they are. Sometimes you must show tough love. So many people are told that they have a mental issue, like being bipolar, psychopathic or narcissistic, but they are in total denial. “No, I am not. I am not going to get help.” What if we do what the mother in Bricked did? “You have to get out. Either you are going to get help or get out.”

ATM: When someone enables you, they keep you stagnate. You are not growing. It is like you are stuck in one place mentally and emotionally. You can get help. It allows them to be a part of the sickness. They are helping. Like someone who helps a robbery, but they are the look out. They are still contributing to it.

TG: You are essentially the accomplice to it. You are the accomplice unless you tell on the crime. It is her job to protect the younger son. She is protecting one son by making the other deal with his illness. This is love. To coddle and enable him to continue down this path is pushing him to death.

ATM: Express the gender bias of bipolar seen within the black community.

TG: Oh my God! Black males often do not feel free to show emotion . . . cry, show they are hurt or show depression.  This is of great concern to one of my male friends. He says “Who is there for us when we go through? When we are down? When we are depressed?”  They suppress it. They are rarely given an outlet to release, which is necessary for overcoming depression.  They are encouraged to suppress it.  In our community, “weakness” is often frowned upon, especially for a black man, who is supposed to be our king, the pillar of the community, our rock, our this and that. This also can adversely affect the women standing in the gap for them, holding them up. These men are also often concerned with their image and how people perceive them. Our community has been faced with our image being attacked. Our image being under scrutiny. Our image alone has made us victims of violence, which in turn has made us so self-conscious. Our black men often feel that showing “weakness” or vulnerability may make the next man feel he can overpower him, that the next man may feel like he can come and infiltrate his family.

ATM: Yes. In the black culture, when hearing of a female with a mental issue, it is also seen different. It is more accepted, but there is no awareness. They make up excuses or reasons. It stems from how some black families run their household. Nothing is never openly discussed. A lot of these mental illness come from these traumatic things in the household.

TG: Yep. “What happens in the family stays in the family.”

ATM: Right. No one talks about it. If you talk about it, then you are deemed an outsider or people are trying to shut you up. “Why are you talking about this and that?” You get outside of the black community and you see other races have therapy to handle their family issues. “Oh, my dad, sister, and brother sat in the living room and we just vented to each other.” Where is this in the black family? Other races talk about it. Or they sit and vent to each other in the living room.  

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