“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.”
“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.
“Beyond the factors that commonly trigger mental health issues, Black men must also carry the day to day stress of being a Black man, which often presents itself unconsciously in normal activities. Black men report experiencing racial microaggressions —insults, invalidations, and interpersonal slights (subtle and sometimes unintentional) – which are linked to symptoms of anxiety and depression. Black men also suffer from impostor syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts his accomplishments in professional settings and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud….. My general belief is that human beings have long held the answers to how to live well. Somewhere along the way, we lost our knowledge of the importance of self-care and restorative practices that help us cope with stress. I think the loss is wrapped up in a myriad of reasons, including western work culture and increased exposure to technology. The bottom line is that we were not designed to be as busy as we are.”
“I grew up in a household where discussing mental health wasn’t really a thing. As a child in my household it always seemed like the more you held in, the stronger you looked in the eyes of everyone else. Talking about mental health is still something that isn’t easily done in my family. There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding seeking therapy/counseling, some that may have turned my family off completely from seeking mental health. Some like you have to have money to afford talking to a therapist, mental health is only for crazy people, and mental health only being a thing for white people. I also believe that my family as well as many people don’t really understand what practicing positive mental health looks like. Positive mental health can be as simple as reciting positive affirmations everyday, learning to say no when you don’t agree, drawing boundaries with family, friends and associates. Taking up that favorite hobby that makes you feel good, practicing positive self esteem, working out, practicing healthier eating habits, talking about your feelings and also checking yourself when you do negative things as a human or things that may hurt others. I believe my family has to discover these truths on their own.”
“I do believe that today’s educational institutions are built to support conversations amongst youths about mental health and inclusivity. There are far more resources for students than when I was in school at the time. In one of my classes I recall spending the first half of the sessions discussing mental health and university outlets for the students if they needed any. I think credit should be given to this generation for that change. They have been at the forefront of mental health and more accepting of the concept than their older cohorts. As for the faculty, there are mandatory training courses for Diversity and Inclusivity for Professors and Directors. We have to take these courses and be “certified” every year before the school semester begins. This is all geared to be of better service to the student body. With that being said, I don’t think there is enough mental health support for the faculty. That is something that can be improved.”