What African Americans Need To Know About Mental Health

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Jovan Belcher, Kasandra Perkins and baby Zoey, Mental Health Black Community

How could it have been avoided?

That is the question that lingers nearly five months after NFL player Jovan Belcher (pictured left) shot and killed Kassandra Perkins (pictured right), his longtime girlfriend and Mother of his infant daughter (pictured).

The Kansas City Chiefs linebacker then left the home the couple shared and drove to Arrowhead Stadium, where he killed himself in front of coaches and the team’s general manager.

On its face, the horrific case of domestic violence appears to be a crime of passion, but beneath it runs an undercurrent of unchecked mental health issues for Belcher, who had been drinking heavily before the murder-suicide.

RELATED: Why Black America’s Battle With Mental Health Is Failing

Watch Belcher’s sad case here:

Truth is, no one can really say just how the tragedy unfolded and exactly how it could have been avoided. We do know that there had been signs of trouble and that the team provided the couple with counseling. Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, had been living with them for about two weeks. Word was, Perkins was preparing to take their 3-month-old daughter, Zoey, and leave.

We also know that Belcher was suffering from depression, according to interviews with friends, teammates, and NFL officials. Early treatment for any number of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder, can help improve the quality of life for those who are suffering.

And since May is Mental Health Month, experts are using the moment to shine the spotlight on the burgeoning health issue. Black mental health experts urge African Americans to pay attention because the community has long been known to turn a blind eye to the illness.

“African-Americans are more at risk for diminished mental health more so than Whites because of challenges, such as poverty, which is a hardship that can cause depression and anxiety,” Dr. Jeff Gardere, a mental health expert and Wellness Director at Philip Stein, told NewsOne.

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