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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

Black Lives Matter and so does Black Mental Health

In recent months, life has changed dramatically in the US for everyone, and for good reason. Change does not come from a place of stagnancy. After the brutal death of George Floyd at the hand of the police force, the discussion of racism in our society has prevailed. But this is not something we should discuss for a few weeks and then forget about and go back to our normal lives, this is an ongoing discussion that we, as Americans, have to face and be open to discuss for a long time to come.


Black communities have historically been dehumanized, oppressed, and taken advantage of in our country. And unfortunately, this still takes place today. We can see that from the recent events that have spread across the US over the last few weeks, and from previous unjustified deaths of Black people. It is saddening to see, and it is not something we should just sit back and observe. It is easy to forget that these events that play out on our electronic screens at home are real families who are suffering. Sometimes It is also easy to forget that these communities and people are mentally and emotionally affected by such events on a far too regular basis. And unless we are in the center of these events, we can never completely understand.


Over these past few weeks, I have done a lot of self-reflection and have begun to think about ways that I might be able to make adjustments in my own life and help others because I realize that it’s not enough to be “not racist”. We must stand up for the Black community and work towards making life just and equal for everyone.


The importance of Black Mental Health


Currently, 13.4% of the US population identifies as black, and of this number, over 7 million people have reported having a mental illness in the past year. This number includes both adults and youth.


Another statistic reports that Black adult Americans are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress over adult White Americans, with adult Black Americans are more likely to experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than White Americans.


It is distressing to know that even though Black Americans experience these emotions at a higher rate than White Americans, research finds that they are less likely to seek support. From research, it is clear that even in our modern society, there are still significantly limited mental health resources for Black Americans, and this has to change.


The current discussion on racism in the US is a crucial one, however, it can be very taxing on our mental health, especially for Black Americans due to the lack of mental health resources available. And trying to find mental health resources at this time may seem overwhelming and daunting, but it is essential.


In a recent article, Rebecca Ruiz puts it well when she says, “Tending to one's mental health at such a moment may seem like an overwhelming task for numerous reasons, because black people routinely face barriers to seeking mental health treatment, like culturally incompetent therapists and discrimination in healthcare settings.” In addition, community health psychologist Jameta Barlow mentions that “while anger and its expression is an important emotion to grapple with, Black people are not given any space to express that anger or rage without experiencing a negative outcome.” And when they do, they are often met with negative consequences. There needs to be time to accept the healing process, instead of being forced to move on regardless of the emotional toll it has taken.


What can be done?


What can be done to help Black communities and Black families? It is important to understand that positive and stable mental health is a vital component during these times, especially during trauma. These discussions of racism are crucial, but they are not easy, and making the time to prioritize your own mental health is important. We must seek support to help navigate through these difficult times, and one way to do that is through continual self-care. Some helpful and easy self-care tips for if you are feeling overwhelmed may be:

  • Limiting the amount of time on social media: While the stay-at-home order was in effect during the pandemic, it was (and is) easy to spend countless hours on social media. Limiting the time spent on social media and the news, can dramatically reduce stress.

  • Mindful meditation

  • Breathing exercises

  • Yoga

  • Walking outside in the sun

  • Writing and repeating affirmations daily

  • Journaling feelings


These are just a few easy activities we can do to practice self-care each day and help process what is happening and how we are feeling in these current trying times.


Black families are experiencing unjust and hardship that is different from their white counterparts. They need to be respected, understood, and supported more than ever.


Here is a list of articles providing resources for our Black communities that we hope you find helpful.


 

Resources used in this blog post:


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