“As a child I went to an elementary school where the students were predominantly white, like I could count all of the people of color with 2 hands. I remember thinking, “why does my school get to have a gymnastics class apart from regular gym class, and a drama class when all of the other schools I attended before with predominantly African American students didn’t have that at all.” I didn’t really understand why things were the way they were just because the people lived in different neighborhoods, but I began to understand as I grew older.”
“I struggled with my mental health as a child a lot. It was in regards to my own body. I always felt fat, and believed no one would like me or date me because of it. It was only in my 20s that I let that belief go, and then I discovered anxiety about other issues. But the main struggles in my life were always about my sense of unlovability. I just didn’t feel worthy of connection or love and if I don’t keep on top of that, it comes up in my life today.”
“There’s no reason why the conversations around motherhood shouldn’t speak to the totality of who a woman is. We have to stop telling women that when they become mothers they must become martyrs. No one EVER asks a man how he is going to have a family and hold down a job. No one ever tells a man that he must give up the parts of himself that make him human, that give him life. But we always tell women that she can’t both work and raise kids or that she must give up her dreams, whatever they may be. It’s time we stop that.”
How do you think the historical legacy of the Christian church has contributed to the current mental health stigma that exists in the faith community?
“Lack of knowledge perpetuates stigma. In the past, people didn’t know much about mental illness and have done horrible things to others for the sake of “curing” them of their ailments. Today, those who are not open to talking about mental illness still see those who suffer from it as people who have little to no faith. In reality, there is more that comes to play here. People can have faith and still feel depressed.”
I say, often, to clients that it would be shocking if we were not experiencing mental health struggles in the context of the overwhelming racial disparities our communities are forced to deal with (e.g. housing, education, food security, employment). As people of color, we are having very natural mental health responses to a system that is set up to fail us in many domains.
What is one key message you want people to take away from the mental health conversation?
Dustin: I think the general misconception is that PTSD means you are permanently broken. It is just not the case. We know that we can save someone’s life. The only thing they need to do is show up.
What inspired you to use your platform to become an advocate for mental health?
Ali: When I started struggling, I didn’t find anyone online that I could look to. As a teenager, you live your life on social media and that can lead youth to believe everyone is perfect. If I couldn’t find anyone, why shouldn’t I be the one?