Anthony Anderson is opening up about the personal loss that compelled him to advocate for mental health awareness.
As PEOPLE reported, the Black-ish star recently hosted the Roll with the Punches Foundation’s “It’s Okay Not To Be Okay” Black Tie and Sneaker Gala. There, Anderson, 52, shared that he lost his half brother due to mental health issues.
“I had a half brother that I really didn’t have a relationship with — because we didn’t know one another — who had mental issues,” he told the magazine exclusively. “And unfortunately, he’s no longer here with us.”
That tragedy galvanized him to champion mental health awareness — especially within the Black community, where Anderson says these conversations are still few and far between.
“So that’s why I’m here to help bring awareness about it, because within the African American community, it’s something that we really don’t talk about,” the actor and comedian said. “And I’m here to say it’s okay to not be okay. We are here for you.”
“We’ve all grown up where there’s been an aunt and uncle or family member that lived in the basement or stayed in the backroom that never really came out. We never really talked about it because of those [stigmas],” Anderson added. “But we should talk about those issues, and bring awareness to it and let them know that it’s okay, that they’re not a leper, that we are family, we are a community.”
Black people face unique hurdles — both individual and structural — when dealing with mental health issues.
People of all races and ethnicities can experience mental health issues, but Black people are affected at disproportionately high rates. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that 21.4 percent of Black Americans struggle with mental illness.
Anderson is right: In Black communities, mental health struggles are rarely discussed out in the open. And if people do confide in their family or loved ones, they often encounter misconceptions or stigmas. Research shows that Black adults are more likely to view mental illness as a personal weakness, not a treatable health issue.
Beyond these individual hurdles, many Black people in the United States also face structural barriers to accessing mental health services. Black Americans are more likely to be uninsured than white people. They may also struggle to find Black therapists, whose lived experience mirrors their own. Not to mention, mental health struggles can be exacerbated by the daily effects of systemic racism.
These are just some examples of how social and economic factors can prohibit people from historically marginalized communities from getting the healthcare they need.
Celebrities like Anderson want Black communities to talk more about mental health.
Anderson joins a growing number of Black celebrities who have spoken out about the importance of mental health awareness. These conversations are helping to chip away at lingering stigmas that prevent Black people from talking openly about their struggles or seeking treatment.
Last fall, Spider-Man actress Laura Harrier also opened up about why she’s a “big advocate” for therapy for Black communities.
“I’ve learned tools through therapy. That’s something that’s really improved my life and really helped me in significant ways,” she told Cosmopolitan.
“There’s been such a long history [in the Black community] of ignoring mental health problems, of saying, ‘Oh, just suck it up’ or ‘I’m a strong Black woman. That doesn’t happen to me,’” Harrier continued. “All of these tropes that we’ve been taught over generations, when actually, I think given generational trauma, of course there are a lot of mental health issues within the Black community.”
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