AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum
Genealogy and Mental Illnesses in the family
I am very much interested in learning about the genealogy of mental illnesses in Afro-American families. I had been asked to make a presentation on the subject but was lost for where to look for information. My first thought was to look at the black and minority health website, then they really address the disparities in health care and lack thereof. Then when talking with my mother today, we discussed my father's half sister who has two children. one with biopolar disorder and the other a schizephenic. In fact, upon further discussion, I remembered that their grandfather's sister, my grand aunt also showed signs of mental illness and my paternal grandmother (their grandmother as well) demonstrated early signs of dementia way before she developed Alzheimer's disease. So here were have three generations of mental illness and that was something that made me think a little harder. I also remembered that a brother (uncle) in this same generation has experience various stages of depression for some time now. Please note that no other family in this side has showed any signs of mental illness. I believe that Afro American families may not have labeled the family members who had the mental illnesses as "crazy" but recognized that they were special and the family always made excuses for them and took care of them. My questions are (1) is mental illness something that can be passed down through our genetic make up? If we have one family member who was bio-polar does that mean we will have one in every generation? Has anyone else had a history of such illnesses in more than one generation? How can we prevent or be better educated in how to handle this in our health education? Any information would be greatly appreciated.
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