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TNCP Review (6): Understand mental illness through the eyes of Nova Wallace from personal experience

By The New Citizens Press

In this episode six (6) of the TNCP Review, Rina Risper has an in-depth discussion with author, Nova Wallace, about her personal experience and triumph managing her mental illness.

Wallace shares her traumatic breaks, describing the public scenarios that made her rethink about her life, family and mission.

About author, Nova Wallace:

Nova Wallace graduated, with honors, from Western Michigan University with a BA in Creative Writing. The talented artist also holds an AA in General Education from Lansing Community College. She is the author of Bipolar Bears and Finally Unrestricted. Currently, she resides in Michigan, where she works as a journalist and news writer.

About the book, Bipolar Bears:

Thirty-three-year-old Shalanna Johnson has been through a lot in her life, but always manages to bounce back. Despite her challenges and less-than-ideal track record with men, she still has many lessons to learn.

Shalanna’s sister, Terry, is fighting her own battles. Unemployed and unable to pay her rent, she is now facing eviction and considering a new career as an exotic dancer. Unfortunately, she cannot lean on Shalanna for emotional support. The two sisters have always been at odds with each other due to a lifetime of favoritism and competitiveness. But when the unspeakable happens and the two rivals are forced to face their secret, now only time will tell if they can overcome their haunting past or if they will both be destroyed forever.

Bipolar Bears shares the intriguing tale of two sisters embroiled in a rivalry that shatters their world and takes them plunging downward to a dark place where they can only be healed by love and understanding.

Below is more information about mental illness from the NAMI organization:

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness and feeling like everything is an effort. Black adults living below the poverty line are more than twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those with more financial security.

Despite the needs, only one in three Black adults with mental illness receive treatment. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Mental Health Facts for African Americans guide, they are also:

  • Less likely to receive guideline-consistent care

  • Less frequently included in research

  • More likely to use emergency rooms or primary care (rather than mental health specialists)

Socioeconomic factors can make treatment options less available. In 2020, 10.4% of Black adults in the U.S. had no form of health insurance.

The Black community, like other communities of color, are more likely to experience socioeconomic disparities such as exclusion from health, educational, social and economic resources. These disparities may contribute to worse mental health outcomes.

Stigma Negative attitudes and beliefs towards people who live with mental health conditions is pervasive within the U.S. and can be particularly strong within the Black community. Although beliefs and attitudes vary, research shows that many Black adults – especially older adults – view mental health conditions as a consequence of personal weakness. As a result, people may experience shame about having a mental illness and worry that they may be discriminated against due to their condition.

For many in the Black community, it can be incredibly challenging to discuss the topic of mental health due to how they may be perceived by others. This fear could prevent people from seeking mental health care when they really need it.

Additionally, many people choose to seek support from their faith community rather than seeking a medical diagnosis. In many Black communities in the U.S., the church, mosque or other faith institution can play a central role as a meeting place and source of strength.

Faith and spirituality can help in the recovery process and be an important part of a treatment plan. For example, spiritual leaders and faith communities can provide support and reduce isolation. However, they should not be the only option for people whose daily functioning is impaired by mental health symptoms.

Provider Bias and Inequality of Care Black people have historically been negatively affected by prejudice and discrimination in the health care system in the US. Unfortunately, many Black people still have these negative experiences when they attempt to seek treatment. Provider bias, both conscious and unconscious, and a lack of cultural competency can result in misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. This ultimately can lead to mistrust of mental health professionals and create a barrier for many to engage in treatment.

Black people may also be more likely to identify and describe physical symptoms related to mental health problems. For example, they may describe bodily aches and pains when talking about depression. A health care provider who is not culturally competent might not recognize these as symptoms of a mental health condition. Additionally, Black individuals are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia when expressing symptoms related to mood disorders.


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