When we think about Black Americans and our relationship with mental health, it is so important to recognize the barriers that still exist within Black communities and where these barriers stem from. History notes that it was long believed that Blacks could not succumb to mental health issues because we were viewed as commodities.
As we think back to our ancestors being enslaved and subjected to unthinkable cruelty and then reflect on present day America, where police brutality, discrimination, institutionalized racism and systemic oppression continues, it is undeniable that these very factors, directly and vicariously impact our mental health as a people and as individuals. This also complicates our relationship with the mental health system. The traumatizing and re-traumatizing events that are inherent to our existence in this country takes a toll on our mental wellbeing and perpetuates the reality that the systems designed to address mental health never considered us as people who needed mental health support and in some cases still don’t.
The cultural mistrust in the mental health system has denied us the acknowledgement of the impact of living within an oppressive system. Black communities as well as individuals are faced with unique challenges regarding addressing our own mental health struggles, supporting others we know who are dealing with mental health issues or simply accessing mental health care that represents us with awareness and sensitivity. The many internalize stereotypes and ideals such as the “Strong/Angry Black Woman” who agressively defends herself and takes on the stresses of the collective or the “Strong Black Man” who is forced to display a hardcore exterior and withhold his emotional expression as this is a sign of weakness.
The running narrative that we must keep up the facade that everything is ok even when it clearly is not and the pervasive myth that black people are somehow "stronger" and don't suffer from mental illness has many Black americans suffering in silence and feeling as though they should not talk about their struggles out loud. It is this silence that has led to the disproportionately high rates of mental health struggles within the Black community.
It is up to us to change this narrative, by reshaping how and what we think is the norm regarding seeking support and treatment when it comes to mental health struggles. We must erase the taboo of talking to someone outside of the immediate family about our “personal business”. We must acknowledge the profound power of faith and prayer but also recognize that some things can’t simply be “prayed away”. We need to look at therapy as an addition not an erasure of the coping skills we have been taught to utilize to manage our struggles.
Our mental health matters in the same way our lives do. It is an essential part to how we exist in the world, how we navigate difficult times and how we show up for others. I entered into the field of psychology to do my part changing the script. In my work with clients I desire to create a space where authenticity and vulnerability are welcomed. As a woman of color I very much identify with the idea of activating push through but I also say that it is “ok to not be ok”. There is something powerful and life changing when we have representation and are simply understood. It is my passion to support, hold space for, and walk with folks as they navigate their struggles and celebrate their successes.
As we wrap up Black History Month, I thought it would be important to recognize the greatness and success of Black Americans, specifically the Founder and CEO of TheMoodCo. She has shared her story of how she took her struggles and turned them into triumphs as she decided to create and launch this company as a result of her own need to find a way to cope with mental health struggles. Her vulnerability and transparency is such a key factor in what makes TheMoodCo. so amazing but it also sheds light on the ongoing efforts to change the script on how we see mental health. One story can change many and prioritizing our wellness through self-care is one catalyst to finding our purpose, showing up in this world with intention and manifesting our greatness. Mental health care is Self-Care! Please feel free to reach out if you are in need of support.
Iesha Brooks is an associate Marriage and Family Therapist who utilizes the lens of attachment, trauma, and social systems. With her clients she can explore the impact of early childhood experiences and past trauma on the present, and restore and heal from old wounds. She is committed to building the therapeutic alliance and providing clients a safe space to explore, empower and validate the myriad of experiences they might face, especially in today’s world. Iesha is a great fit for clients dealing with Prenatal/ Postpartum, Life transitions, Anxiety/Depression/Complex Trauma, Cultural Identity, and other stressors inherent to navigating social systems. Iesha will start from a place of empathy and curiosity about where you are, where you’ve been and where you want to go. She will hold space for all parts of you to come forward so you can begin to rewrite your story.
*Currently accepting new clients* https://calendly.com/schedulewithiesha