SAN ANTONIO — Editors Note: Veterans can find mental health support by visiting the VA South Texas Healthcare System website. Their Veterans Crisis Line can be reached at 800-273-8255 (select 1) for free, private help anytime 24/7.
According to a study from the San Antonio Area Foundation (SAAFDN) and the San Antonio Area African American Community Fund (SAAAACF), Black veterans make up the highest percentage of veterans in Bexar County, 18 years of age or older, at 19%.
Wednesday morning, San Antonio College (SAC) held a panel discussion with four Black veterans, related to mental health impacts and stigmas behind it.
Among the panelists were Hal Adams, Darin Elkins and Anita Lightfoot. The discussion was moderated by Robert Gorman, a veteran himself.
"The fact that I was a Black person serving in a predominately white military did weigh on me," said Lightfoot, although added that it was not something she realized until later in her career.
"Just something as simple as having to work so much harder than my counterparts, or how my emotional state either, made a person comfortable or uncomfortable," she added.
When asked if panelists felt there were unique mental health challenges for African American service members, Adams recalled incidents where Black service members had a harder time receiving promotions compared to white counterparts.
"You either came back with your same rank or a less rank," he said. " I went over as an E6 (staff sergeant), came back as an E5 (sergeant)," he said.
Elkins added that there have been studies that show "actions are taken against minorities and African Americans at substantially higher percentages of their counterparts," he said. "It feels as if you’re targeted for punitive action, then you’re not provided the same opportunities for promotion potential."
Lightfoot and Elkins both addressed stigmas that many Black males face when showing emotion, which they said could contribute to them avoiding seeking mental health treatment.
Personally, Elkins shared that he would often suppress his feelings to avoid being deemed as "weak" by others. "It's unfortunate because you do hold those feelings and emotions in," he said. "Then you tend to suppress, and those suppressions tend to build up, and then you unleash this buildup of pressure."
Panelists encourage all veterans to be proactive and seek mental support if they feel they are struggling.
"Getting some help for yourself means that you care more about your health and wellbeing than you do someone’s opinion of you," said Lightfoot.
This panel discussion was part of an ongoing series of Black History Month events at San Antonio College. Here are a list of future online events SAC is hosting. Voter registration will be available at all events.
Wednesday, February 16 from 11 A.M. - 1 P.M.
Presenters: Reverend Verna Young, Pastor Rickey Knighton, Professor Darrell Woody, Judge Yolanda Huff, Mental Health
Program Description: Death is something many people find challenging. Like many things, the death of a loved one can affect an individual's health. Panel III consists of a pastor, a reverend, a judge, and Professor Woody, Director of Mortuary Science here at SAC. These individuals will share their perspectives on working through grief from various approaches to minimize the effect on an individual's health.
Panel III consists of a pastor, a reverend, a judge, and professor Woody director of Mortuary Science here at SAC. These individuals will share their perspectives on working through grief from various approaches to minimize the effect on an individual’s health.
Zoom Link: https://alamo.zoom.us/j/93059903657
Wednesday, February 23 from 10:50 A.M. - 12:05 P.M.
Program Description: Jennifer Farmer renowned author will discuss her book, "First and Only: A Black Woman’s Guide to Thriving at Work and in Life."
Ms. Farmer will also facilitate a more in-depth discussion in the Loftin Student Center Staff Lounge at 1:00 p.m.
Zoom Link: https://alamo.zoom.us/j/99012246580
Monday, February 28 from 11 A.M. - 1 P.M.
Ria Washington: Communities Creating Care: Voting Rights is a Public Health Issue
Program Description: Ria Washington, a former SAC student, who began her career as a voting rights activist, will share in earnest to talk to colleagues, students, and staff about why voting rights is a public health issue.
Zoom Link: https://alamo.zoom.us/j/93820527727
Related links on KENS 5: