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?
“Most of my medical work (1965–71) was in hospitals, where it seemed that more than 50% of the patients were there because of the ill-effects of tobacco, alcohol or analgesics. To me, most of our work appeared to be to patch them up and send them back out into the circumstances that made them sick in the first place. These substances that were responsible were not just freely available; they were heavily advertised. I felt I could help improve people’s health more by stopping advertising and easy accessibility than by simply treating the symptoms, and to do that I would need to get out of medicine and go into politics. That was such a distasteful option that I decided to take a break and travel for a while.”
“The most crucial part is finding the right psychiatrist. There are not enough good psychiatrists in the mental health field, and that is just the truth. Find someone who sees you as an individual and will listen to your wants and needs. Many psychiatrists would put me on meds that sedated me to the extent that I could not work. I started voicing my concerns around that and did not give up my search.”
“With the country in lockdown due to COVID-19, there has been an enormous increase in discussions around mental health, mindfulness and self-care. The coloring book phenomenon, while not art therapy, stems from people experiencing how using coloring books can be therapeutic in alleviating stress. The uptick in people embracing creative pastimes during this crisis, whether making art, cooking or knitting, is very encouraging as these activities help us manage our stress and improve our mood.”
“I do something called devotion for my wellbeing. The equivalent to this that is most easily understood would be meditation, but meditating with the Bible, and having the source of what you’re being present with as God. I go on my Bible app and go through different plans of life stages. It usually takes me about 20 minutes and I take notes! Devotions in part help me realize that there are bigger things out there to be concerned about, and learn to make the best out of any situation with perspective.”