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Yusuf Neville Sparks Conversation on Mental Health in African American Communities

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In recent news, Yusuf Neville, a prominent African American male, committed suicide by jumping from the parking deck of a Greensboro hotel. His loved ones, family and friends said their last goodbyes during his memorial held at Durham’s First Calvary Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. Yusuf was a graduate of Hampton University and a service manager of a fortune 500 company. He was also a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, an avid runner and engaged to his long time girlfriend Jennifer Bowden. From the outside looking in, he seemed to have the perfect life, unfortunately, that was not the case.

Many celebrities have reached out via twitter and instagram to mourn, celebrate and say their last goodbyes to Yusuf. One of them being Terrance J, a news correspondent on E news. One of his last twitter posts read

For some reason in African American communities, we do not recognize mental illness as an issue. Instead, we sweep it under the rug as if it does not exist and if it does, prayer is used as a bandage. Don’t get me wrong, the church can be a great resource, but why do we not seek treatment or diagnosis also? We are taught African American women have to be strong and hold our families together, and African American men have to be providers and are not allowed to show proper emotion.

According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness,

  • Yusuf-Neville-Instagram-suicide-noteMental illness is frequently stigmatized and misunderstood in the African American community. African Americans are much more likely to seek help though their primary care doctors as opposed to accessing specialty care.
  • Culture biases against mental health professionals and health care professionals in general prevent many African Americans from accessing care due to prior experiences with historical misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and a lack of cultural under standing; only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the United States are African American.
  • Across a recent 15-year span, suicide rates increased 233 percent among African Americans aged 10-14 compared to 120 percent among Caucasian Americans in the same age group across the same span of time.
  • Nearly half of all prisoners in the United States are African American. Prison inmates are at a higher risk of developing a mental illness.
  • Children in foster care and the child welfare system are more likely to develop mental illnesses. African American children comprise 45 percent of the public foster care population. Read Full Fact Sheet

It is time for us to step up and begin to address issues of mental illness within African American communities and ways for people to seek help without judgement and scrutiny. There is nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves in healthy ways. If not, we will continue to see suffering in the same ways that manifested with Yusuf Neville. It is important to keep having these conversations, so we can positively move forward in our communities. Rest in Peace Yusuf.

Brittney Cobb is a News Correspondent for Social Work Helper and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Brittney studied Criminal Justice at Saint Augustine's College and has her Masters in Social Work from North Carolina State University. She is a Behavioral Health Provider at Statesville Children's Clinic (an affiliate of Gaston Family Health Services). As a Clinical Social Worker, she provides behavioral health services in a primary care setting to children and adults. She wants to make a difference and give back to the community.

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