Issa Rae said it best when she said “I’m rooting for everybody Black.” That instantly became my favorite quote. I also like to add in that not only am I rooting for everybody Black, but I’m rooting for the mental wellbeing of everybody Black.
Black mental health is something that has recently gotten attention, between the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement, and the numerous murders committed by law enforcement in the year 2020. Let’s face it, 2020 was quite the year for all of us.
All the trauma. Generational trauma. Vicarious trauma. Community violence. It’s just too much. It’s hard to escape from it because it’s everywhere- news, social media, and the topic of conversations. All of this affects our mental health and mental wellbeing. At least the conversation regarding that is getting started- sure, let’s go with that and continue said conversation.
Personally, I believe that when people use the term “Black mental health,” they are referring to solely Americans, and don’t necessarily include the entire Black diaspora- including but not limited to African-Americans, Caribbeans, Africans, and Afro-Latinx. There doesn’t need to be a divide; we’re all Black. Even though we all come from different parts of the world, we definitely have similarities in the way we were raised.
We all probably have those walmart shopping bags, that are simultaneously used as trash bags. Stating your opinion, as a child (and sometimes, even as an adult) is a form of disrespect. And God forbid you brought home a pencil that your mom didn’t buy for you- now all of a sudden all hell breaks loose.
‘What happens in this house, stays in this house,” is a common phrase that I’ve heard growing up. As an adult talking among friends, this is a common phrase in many Black households. No matter the intent, or reason behind it, this phrase has probably caused some internalized turmoil. It probably caused some grief and tension within the household or the family. Maybe some tension within yourself.
When it comes to mental health in the Black household, the older generation often says to “pray and things will get better.” If a child says they’re depres- never mind, that doesn’t happen because “it’s just a phase” and that child has “nothing to be stressed about.” Children should be perfectly content with having a “roof over their head and food in their stomachs.” What about those kids who don’t even have that- whew, that’s another topic for another day.
Now we’re all grown up. All raised with a certain way of thinking and behaving. Think about how this has affected our friendships, relationships, the wellbeing of our children and future children. As a millennial, we say we are determined to break these generational curses (except the Walmart trash bags. That will stay in my family for generations to come.) It all starts with our mental health and wellbeing: realizing our triggers, setting our boundaries, figuring out what makes us happy, and realizing what doesn’t make us happy. It can definitely be exhausting just being Black in America because of all the BS that happens on a daily basis: systemic racism, economic racism, criminal justice, and every other -ism that occurs. Remember self-care. You only have one life, and we have no idea when this life will end. It is easier said than done, however it is not impossible.
As a Master of Social Work student, one of my goals is to destigmatize mental health within the black community. The entire black community, whether you are Jamaican, Trinidadian, African, LGBT+, an inmate, teen mother, foster child, or anything in between- Your life matters and your mental health matters as well.