I get into why it is important to have the discussion around mental health, particularly in the black community. Speaking about trauma can be mentally exhausting, simply being exposed to the traumatic past of our people without a solution is damaging. So I hope that this helps to breakdown the importance as well as some affective ways to turn the community around for the better.
It’s has only been over the last couple of months that I have been able to see just why people have been saying there is a mental health stigma within the black community. I was aware that the conversation wasn’t really being had, but a whole stigma, a whole community reluctant to understand mental health? I didn’t get it.It’s common for mental health illnesses to go unnoticed, we live in a world that is constantly moving at an unnecessary fast pace. You either suppress your struggles and keep it moving or you are consumed and ignored.
It is also important to know that beating yourself up for not noticing something or picking up on certain things is not going to help anyone. We are all trying to keep our heads above water, and in the process of doing so everything and everyone around us gets lost. Being present now requires effort, it’s not something that comes natural to all of us. Practising stillness can also be quite overwhelming, I mean who actually likes to be left alone with their thoughts? I know I find myself hiding from my own thoughts sometimes.
Bringing up slavery is not the most comfortable of topics, however I know the relevance it has to mental health within our community. Slavery was more about the mental entrapment than it was about the physical labour. We still do not understand the full power of our minds, however we understand how conditioning works, that is what was used to enslave black people. Slavery “came to an end” and we was told to get over it before we could even begin to understand what the permanent effects were.
Control The Narrative
Out of all the demographics, people of colour, black people specifically will experience some form of mental health. The narrative that black people do not experience mental health comes down to the fact that we do not have as much control over the narrative that is sold to the masses. If we had the control to tell our stories more and it wasn’t such a one off experience, we would not be having the discussion about the mental health stigma within the community now. We would have had the control to do the healing, therapy and self care that was needed years ago.
So you have a whole community of survivors without acknowledging the mental damage, nor is there any safe spaces of us to go to. This leaves a whole community of suppressors, some can “push through it” others do not.
To put this into perspective for those who may not understand, it is like breaking your leg and not having a doctor to go to, not having an understanding of what it means to have a broken leg other than experiencing constant pain and discomfort, being expected to fix it all yourself with no medical experience, on top of all of that you have to be a functioning member of society.
Pretty much just being thrown in the deep end, expected to figure it all out whilst being told it could be worse, get over it.
Understanding The Language
For me I know that it was a lack of understanding of what mental health involved that led me to battle anxiety with no understanding of what the problem was. I knew something was up, but couldn’t put my finger on it this leads to putting it down to being awkward, anti-social, weird, unintelligent etc. If I understood it earlier I would have been able to manage it better.
Black families need to be having honest conversations about mental health with each other. It is widely seen as acceptable for black people to struggle whilst maintaining a big smile on our faces at all times. This is not only unrealistic it is costing our lives, our first safe space should be our homes. This is not always the case for everyone, the next safe space should be other members of the black community.
Once we know the terms, the names and can identify the mental health issue from earlier on the better. This can only happen if we continue to share our stories, create safe spaces and take control of the narrative that is being told.
Being aware of what it is that you are dealing with allows you to then explore the different ways to manage your mental health.
Self care can be anything from taking a walk, to eating breakfast to a trip to your therapist. Self care is what you need to do in order to maintain a balance, to reclaim the control and to take charge of your own life.
“Although the roots of this stigma are complex, experts say two major factors play a significant role: a lack of access to care and an aversion to openly discussing mental health” – Self.com
As a community self care should be practised whenever we can, the attitude towards self care should also be explored, find what best suits you, surround yourself with people who are encouraging, supportive and understanding.
Do what you have to do, it is about you, it is not selfish, it is necessary. Take your time, the journey is not a race to see who can heal themselves quicker, it is a journey towards self love, self respect and appreciation of your life.
Platforms that encourage black individuals to share their mental health stories:
The Move Hub
Gal Dem Magazine
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