A Moment in Mental Health
Mental Illness is a topic within the Black community that still holds a societal stigma. We have all watched movies and can think back to our childhoods and remember that one family member everyone said: “wasn’t right in the head.”
Today more conversations about Mental Health have begun but there is still much work to do. According to Mental Health America,13.4% of the U.S. population identifies as Black or African American. Of those, over 16% reported having a mental illness in the past year–that is over 7 million people.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to shed light on Black creatives within our literary community who live with mental illness.
For the last three years, author Mel Dau has created her own lane in the literary world. Creating her own genre, Information Drama by way of Urban Romance.
Mel Dau has published twenty books independently and published under B. Love Publications. With the tagline, “Pen game is bipolar,” she’s very transparent about her mental disorder. We got the chance to speak with Mel Dau and discuss her life as an author who also lives with a mental illness.
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
SGBC: How long have you been writing and what genre would you say you write in?
Mel Dau: I have been writing for three years now and my genre is Informational Drama by way of Urban Romance.
SGBC: What does mental health mean to you?
Mel Dau: It’s taking care of the inner you that makes you continue to get out of bed and make moves. Being able to know your trigger to set proper boundaries to keep your mental health in a healthy place.
SGBC: What is your diagnosis and at what age were you diagnosed?
Mel Dau: I have Bipolar I, Anxiety Disorder, and Insomnia. I was diagnosed in 2014 so I was 32.
SGBC: How does having Bipolar I impact your writing?
Mel Dau: That’s a tricky question because it depends on whether I am actively taking my meds as I should which means I tend to write a little slower honestly because I think things out more.
When I am not medicated I fall into a mania which often causes me not to sleep so I write, write, write. The contents of my books are equally as great, but the behind-the-scenes process looks much different.
SGBC: As a Black woman, did you ever feel like it was taboo to openly discuss your mental illness?
Mel Dau: Of course and that is what brought me to my suicide attempt in 2014, which landed me in the hospital to find out about my diagnosis.
It is unfortunate that as Black women we feel like we have to wear this cloak of super strength that is not required and often not needed. We were taught any break in our mental health is a weakness and often time told to pray it away. This causes people to go into what I call a shame closet. That closet is dangerous and can lead to death.
SGBC: What’re some misconceptions people have about mental health disorders?
Mel Dau: That people with mental health issues are not dependable, that they’re stupid, or crazy. I’ve been asked how could I be a good mother with my mental health issues.
All mental health issues don’t present themselves the same way. Yes, there are some more severe than others but even in those situations, there are provisions.
SGBC: What are some coping mechanisms you use to help sustain your creativity and overall mental health?
Mel Dau: I use movies, music, a lot of sleep, and prayer. Sleep is extremely important to me as most of my storylines come from my dreams. When I stop sleeping I know there is a disconnect somewhere in my mental health that I need to address.
SGBC: Do you have specific books you’ve written that focus on mental health issues?
SGBC: Why is it so important for you to openly discuss mental health issues?
Mel Dau: Through my transparency, it helps others know that there is no shame in having mental health issues. It lets others know that yes, I am a Black Woman who is successful, thriving, productive, and in therapy.
Thank you so much to Mel Dau for participating in this interview. Sistah Girls, be sure to keep up with Mel Dau on all of her platforms!