Black people are resilient, but are not invincible. And this notion is important to understand and consider as it pertains to the conversation about mental health in our community. According to a 2013 study, 63% of Black people believe that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness. Mental health has historically been seen as a taboo topic in the Black community as we’re taught to be strong enough to keep our heads up and weather whatever storm comes our way. But sometimes the downpour of life can overtake us, and it’s okay to need someone to throw us an umbrella (and maybe even a raincoat and boots too).
It’s okay not to be okay- Fighting the Stigma
Events such as the tragic passing of 2019 Miss USA Cheslie Kryst and Ian Alexander Jr., son of Oscar-Winning actress Regina King earlier this year are poignant reminders that everyone is fighting silent internal battles and the fact that the mental health and suicide crisis among Black youth is an urgent matter. This debilitating stigma surrounding mental health in our community and association with weakness can be breeding grounds for shame and even discourage individuals from vocalizing their struggles with mental health and seeking help.
Just like we invest in our physical fitness and wellbeing, our mental wellbeing is equally as important. Especially in the times we are living in today, where in just the past 2 years- living through an ongoing global pandemic, America’s “reckoning with race” and continuous threat of police brutality, and even simply the stressors and triggers of everyday life, we have all collectively been through so much. it’s okay to not be okay. Now more than ever, taking care of our mental health is essential to navigating life.You can also try out intake rehab to get rid off stress , depression and to maintain mental health.
Dismantling and Rejecting Stereotypes
With the weighty and limiting labels such as the “Strong Black Woman” that have been historically placed on so many of us, many Black women in America report feeling pressured to act like superwomen- which simply isn’t a sustainable way to live. Thankfully, we’re seeing more and more Black women claim the #softlife, where we’re rebuking hardship and bearing the weight of the world on our shoulders.
This burdensome expectation of strength is not only placed on Black women but also on Black men- exacerbated by its association with hypermasculinity. We need to let our men and young boys express themselves in totality- whether it’s to cry or express #blackboyjoy. And while Black people are strong and resilient, that is not all we are. These stereotypes and labels do not give us the room or grace to be flawed or struggle as we humans all do.
Opening up the Conversation
We’re starting to see more and more prominent Black public figures and celebrities make moves towards normalizing and destigmatizing this conversation. For example, actress Gabrielle Union has been vocal about her experiences with PTSD and battles with mental health and actress Taraji P. Henson has also been extremely open about her personal struggles with anxiety and depression. In 2021, Taraji launched her initiative, The Unspoken Curriculum, which aims to help Black students seek help when they are feeling alone.
The Initiative is a part of her non-profit the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her father who also struggled with mental health issues. “The first thing we wanted to do was get Black people talking about mental health,” Henson said in an interview with Town and Country Magazine. “Let’s just get it out there. I’ll say something. I’ll break the ice.” When we open up and share our experiences, we start to realize that we’re not alone. We shouldn’t have to suffer in silence.
Seeking out help
It’s important to note that even after getting over the hurdle of acknowledging mental health concerns and accepting that we need help, there can be barriers to access especially for members of the Black community seeking help- Only 1 in 3 Black Americans who could benefit from mental health treatment receive it.
This may be in part due to the disparities in mental health treatment and anything ranging from financial constraints, familial and social circumstances, or even finding a culturally competent therapist. But there are plenty of groups and organizations out there with the intention of bridging the gap in terms of accessibility and community to help Black people find spaces for healing, therapy, and resources for mental wellness. Some notable ones are: Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM), Black Men Heal, Therapy for Black Girls, and the Loveland Foundation.
Taking care of ourselves is paramount as it’s how we’re able to take care of others. As a wise woman by the name of Lauryn Hill once sang, “How you ‘gon win when you ain’t right within?” You can’t build your future and break generational curses if you and your mental wellness are not a priority. Black joy is a radical act and investing in your wellbeing and self-care is never a waste of time.