Within the black community, one aspect of health that rarely gets discussed or even given any real attention, is the big “M” - Mental Health.
Whenever I speak to the black community about mental health, I get a look as if I have three heads or I’m from outer space! I can read that look on their faces very well, it says “black people don’t have mental health problems.”
At one time I was cautious about who I spoke to about mental health. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t want to offend anyone if I had to address their poor mental health, especially if they were black. I grew up in a West Indian household where mental health was considered, “madness” and was not something that you spoke about. I quickly noticed that wasn’t doing anyone any good, so I now address it head on with my clients. This tactic seems to work better, no matter the race of the client.
But the bigger questions is: “what is our problem with addressing our mental health?” I realized, our culture has made us believe that the only ones that have mental health issues are crazy, dumb, overacting or weak.
We all have mental health
Well I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but ANYONE’S mental health can become poor. There are various factors that can lead you to have poor mental health. The biggest cause is distress.
Ask Yourself This
Are you taking care of your emotional well-being? Reflect on this question and think about the stressful situations that you are faced with daily.
Regular daily situations can be stressful but sometimes you are faced with situations such as losing a loved one, a job, a relationship or whatever it may be. How you choose to handle these situations affects you emotionally, which is essentially your mental health. Poor mental health doesn’t only affect you, it affects those around you as well. And if you are a parent it affects your children.
Use the Right Tools
Raising children is hard enough, adding poor mental health becomes overwhelming for many families. When you take control of your emotional well-being, your children will do so as well. It is time we take our mental health seriously and make sure we have the correct tools to do so. Many of us are using the wrong tools to solve our problems. We are like plumbers, using a painter’s tools to fix the toilets. It doesn’t work and we are not getting anywhere! It’s time to get the right tools to better ourselves and our families.
Here are 5 tips that you can use in your daily life to maintain good mental health:
Daily Self-care: set out even 10 mins a day to focus on yourself and do what makes you happy! Maybe it’s having a cup of tea and just being still or taking a walk. Find out what makes you happy and do it.
Positive Self-talk: You are your biggest fan… so always fill yourself with positive words. Words are powerful! Write a few positive affirmations on sticky notes and use them as a reminder. Paste them on your mirror or your dashboard so they’re always in front of you.
Daily Affirmations: Start off your day with positive affirmations that can help you focus and start your day off on the right foot. Every morning my kids recite their “I am’s” as we call them. Five statements that they are and they always begin with I am great! Try it. I am….Fill in the blank.
Self-Check ins: Ask yourself how you’re doing, especially after a stressful day! A great way to do daily check-ins is to journal your thoughts.
Be open and honest about your feelings: When things are bottled up, this is one way to lead you to poor mental health. Express your feelings to the one you love the most. If you can’t speak it then write it down. Communicate in the way that’s best for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
The important thing is to take control of your emotional well-being. Of course, there might be times when it can become overwhelming and you might need additional help. Don’t be afraid to reach out, let go of the stigma that our community has about mental health and get the help that you need from a professional!
We need to start looking at mental health as an issue that affects us all. Mental health doesn’t only affect a specific race, gender, age, or status! It affects everyone!
Being self-aware and understanding how you cope with different stressors that come up in our lives is very important to maintain positive mental health.