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  • Janmariz Deguia

Black Mental Health

TW: Racism, Police Brutality, Suicide, Violence, Slavery


"They literally rushed me into school after I got out of the hospital and they expected me to go back to class like nothing happened." Juliana Lebron


Why is Black Mental Health not taken seriously?


Juliana was the one who reminded me about the complexities that exist in the multifaceted "answer". So let's start from the beginning.


"A 2016 study found that nearly half of first and second year medical students believed that Black people have thicker skin than white people, and perceived Black people as experiencing less pain than white people, an idea born from 19th century experiments that were conducted by a physician named Thomas Hamilton. He was a wealthy plantation owner who regularly tortured an enslaved Black man named John Brown, creating blisters all over his body in an effort to prove Black skin went deeper than white skin...A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine analyzed data from 14 previously published studies on pain management and found that Black patients were 40% less likely to receive medication for acute pain compared to white patients, and 34% less likely to be prescribed opioids" (Today).

 

This Friday, I went to Art With Impact's Sanctuary Space where we discussed what representation means for marginalized groups.

The leaders of the discussion were Rebecca Lieb and Calvin J Walker, two outstanding storytellers, and they asked us, are we explaining or are we sharing? Mr. Walker created a brilliant analogy and said “are we spoon feeding or is there an open platter?" It is good to ask "What is this spice, what is this flavor?" [Paraphrased:] In relation to our trauma but if we are forcing someone to consume something then there is no joy, there are no observations but a feeling of resentment. I have linked some of his films below in addition to more interesting reads relating black mental health.


I asked a friend of mine, Kya Francois, what representation meant to her, "I saw animals in cartoons more than I saw a face that looked like mine... I grew up and all I saw were always white people, I always always thought that white needed to be the beauty standard. I would watch tv and they’d talk about their noses, and I never thought something was wrong with mine until they thought that theirs, which I found beautiful, weren’t."


Do you want to hear about representation? Here are some devastating up statistics from NAMI. Black and African Americans make up about 40% of the incarcerated population. As of 2018, one in five Black and AA people have lived in poverty. When you are suppressed from receiving education, gaining access to health resources or job opportunities, and excluded from society as a whole, there will be negative affects on your mental health. Then try maintaining your wellbeing while working through generational trauma and historical adversity such as slavery during an uprising in anti-black violence?

 

"Racial trauma encompasses the physical and emotional reactions to racism that causes stress, which could overwhelm a person, according to Ashley McGirt, a licensed therapist who specializes in racial trauma. Triggers range from the visceral to the tedious — anything from viewing a video of police brutality to an act of everyday racism, often described as a microaggression" (NBC).


Although Black Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health issues, they are less likely to receive support. There is speculation that this could be due to stigma, which prominently exists within communities of Black Men. But the real crisis is the lack of black mental health resources, or hell black health resources. According to APA, 4% of therapists are black/African-American and 1% are multiracial or from other racial/ethnic groups.


Keyon Harrold Jr, a 14 year old from New York, was wrongly accused of stealing an iPhone and attacked by Mia Ponsetto. The question that seems to send chills down everyone’s spine is “Why me?” I was on a panel with him this January in which I got to hear his family members and friends discuss what teens can do to stand up against racial injustice. In this space, almost all the black teens had expressed the same increased fear that it could have been them too. It’s been over a year since Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man was shot while jogging. Just four days ago, Jeffrey “JJ” Bright, a black trans teen, was killed in Pennsylvania on February 22. From many conversations with my black friends, I can confidently state the devastating news that they all have this fear of "am I next?". Whether it be a small nodule of anxiety in the center of their chest or a constant thought that flies around their head like little birds in a cartoon obstructing the view of life's joys. This fear is one that other teens have not been impaired with."An estimated 67 percent of Black adults cite discrimination as a significant source of stress in their lives, according to the APA’s Stress in America survey released in July. And 78 percent of Black adults surveyed agreed that being Black is difficult in today’s society"(NBC).


Black mental health is not being taken seriously because society does not take mental health AND black people seriously! From emotions being dismissed because of stigma to hair being deemed as unprofessional to lower wages to the lack of spaces that allow for black healing. Black people deserve wellness.


Lists of Black Mental Health Resources

https://www.self.com/story/black-mental-health-resources

https://adaa.org/find-help/by-demographics/black-community

https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/Black-African-American

https://www.mhanational.org/issues/black-and-african-american-communities-and-mental-health


Non-black people, what can you do? Listen, educate, and create. Listen to black voices whether it be your friends or speakers. Educate yourself on their history as they had to learn yours by reading books, watching movies, attending seminars, or listening to podcasts. And create spaces in which black people are allowed to live because most of their environments are suffocating, don't make them choose between safety and authenticity. Create change by going to protests, communicating with your government officials, and inspiring more people to do the same.


Book Recommendations

https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/books-on-race

https://www.wbur.org/artery/2020/06/17/reading-list-on-race-for-allies

https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/criminal-justice


Film Recommendations

https://www.themarshallproject.org/records/1964-film

https://www.kpbs.org/news/2020/jun/10/13-free-documentaries-and-shows-about-black-histor/

https://www.blackpast.org/multimedia/documentaries/


Calvin J Walker's films...

A beautiful Black Man

https://vimeo.com/416045735

A Mind Matters

https://vimeo.com/367867936

Staging Face

https://vimeo.com/416043884


Podcasts Recommendations

https://www.blackenterprise.com/35-black-podcasts-you-need-to-tune-into-and-download/

https://blog.feedspot.com/black_podcasts/

 



 

My personal thoughts:

Everything above was general information you literally can't argue with me on. But I have more to say that will be subjective and if you would like to respectfully leave a comment, I'd be happy to have that discussion with you.


It is not Black people's duty to educate you on the issues they face. It's fair to say that it is difficult to learn about the black experience when educators are primarily cis-het white rich men. So why not make education more accessible especially to black individuals who want to pursue education in racial issues or at least give black activists a platform. and just fucking listen. I don't understand why people get mad about what black people share or how they share it. Like stop getting upset that it doesn't indulge your need for trauma porn. There are more people who are racialized than not yet the prominent voices are white people. Although I feel pretty passionate about this blog piece and it's topics, I'm mad that I had to write it because I don't have any black members on our team. And I feel guilty but at the same time, most of our members or people from my community and extension from theirs. I am an Asian American who lives in a predominantly white town in which most of my BIPOC friends are from different communities. With that being said, I used a lot of quotes in this piece because I'm not black and I can't represent the black struggle. Submissions and applications are open always and to everyone.


 


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