keshaperry

Finding Delonte

In Uncategorized on October 1, 2009 at 8:30 am

Sometimes asking for help may be one of the most difficult things a person can do. Sometimes asking for help will help save a person’s life; asking for help allows an individual to start anew. Sometimes asking for help, depending on where you sit on the matter, to many, shows signs of weakness. And it is the latter logic that poses significant obstacles for African Americans in seeking help for a mental disorder.

My mother has been a mental health therapist for about 15 years now, and a couple of times a year, we find ourselves discussing why so few African Americans seek help when treating a mental disorder. Out of those conversations, I come to appreciate the work that people in her field do, but I also question why mental disorders are somewhat taboo to many African Americans. My mother always ends by saying—“for so long, African Americans have gone undiagnosed and many don’t understand the particular disease. In African Americans, to perception that you are ‘losing it’ shows weakness and we are to go to seek help from the pastor rather than a therapist. I’m not saying seeking advice from a pastor is NOT the way to go, but sometimes you need both a pastor and a licensed therapist.” According to Mental Health America, many African Americans suffering from bipolar disorder are untreated or undiagnosed. Some reasons for this includes a mistrust of mental health professionals, reliance on family and religious community during stressful times, and a tendency to talk about physical problems rather than mental ones.

The issue of bipolar disorder and depression has received more airtime this week because of Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West’s ongoing battles with bipolar disorder. The guard was recently arrested on weapons charges, and on Monday, when training camp opened for the NBA season, West appeared at media day and has been absent ever since. It appears that West may be off his medication or the combination of medication he is on may no longer work for him anymore. At the media day, West stated that he was “back taking my meds and everything.” According to the one expert I know–my mother—“the challenges to treating mood disorders, particularly bipolar disorder, is finding a course of treatment that will allow the individual to have a productive life–so you have to find the right combination of medications. But also, we struggle with getting the individual to comply with taking the medications. If a person suffering from bipolar disorder feels as though they no longer need the medications because they are ‘just fine’ without them, they are much more likely to be noncompliant.”

During the 2008 training camp and preseason saw West take some time off to “get my thoughts back together.” Said West, “In a sense, you feel like a weaker man because you have to raise your hand and ask for help. But I found out over the last week that it made me a stronger person. I came back focused, and with the help of some medicine and talking with people on a regular basis, I’m back in good spirits…”

Back to this year, Delonte has not shown for training camp as of yet, and Cavaliers LeBron James said “basketball has nothing to do with what’s going on, so he needs to take as much time as he needs, and when he comes back, we’re going to welcome him the way we’ve always done. When he gets back, it’s going to be as if he was always here.” Delonte seems to have a good support system around him, including his employer; we hope that he continues to find his way back to some normalcy, productivity to where we can continue enjoying him on the court, and he can enjoy life off the court.

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