5 Meaningful Ways to Embrace Black Mental Health This February
Mental. Health. Two words that too often are used hesitantly in the Black community. Why is there such a disconnect within the Black community when it comes to acknowledging mental health? Historically, there have been stigmas which perpetrate a narrative that Black mental health equates weakness. However, that is far from the truth.
To unlearn these false narratives is to be awakening to a true sense of mental and emotional strength and freedom. For generations, the Black community has associated constant adversity with a sign of strength. As a Black woman and mental health advocate, I beg to differ.
I believe that the true display of strength comes from being willing to discuss and lean into the uncomfortable moments in life. Whether that is understanding the stages of grief, discussing the darker side of depression or even learning how to cope with social anxiety that comes with racial trauma, there is strength in embracing Black mental health.
Acknowledging and embracing Black mental health can look different for every person but if you are looking for ideas, here are five simple but powerful ways you can embrace and enhance the conversation this month and beyond.
Don’t be afraid to ask members of the Black community about their mental health this month. With so much going on in the world, from constant racial trauma to personal adversities, you never truly know what someone is going through. For a long time the Black community has been taught to hide feelings of sadness so it may be hard to openly express feelings. But when you take the initiative to ask about the wellbeing of others it can create a safe space and show compassion. Just a simple “how are you doing today” can go a long way.
Asking about the wellbeing of someone only goes so far if you aren’t actively listening to what is being said. Active listening requires your full attention. When you truly actively listen to the feelings, thoughts and experiences of others, you not only observe the verbal and non-verbal messages that body language provides, but you are able to offer appropriate feedback when needed. The true beauty of active listening is the fact that it can make others feel heard which is a feeling that members of the Black community often struggle to find.
When you are actively listening to the experiences of the Black community there will be a call to action that you can participate in. Whether that action is donating to Black mental health organizations or simply offering allyship in a professional or personal setting, there are plenty of ways you can use actions to further the awareness of Black mental health. Simple gestures like spreading awareness on the importance of Black mental health, sharing educational resources or even having the courage to share your personal mental health experiences are valuable actions that can help support others during this time.
It is never too late to learn about Black mental health pioneers and advocates. Bebe Moore Campbell is a mental health advocate who fought to get Congress to formally recognize National Minority Mental Health Month. Other pioneers like Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, an African American psychiatrist, who made significant contributions to the study of Alzheimer's disease, have continued to pave the way for people of color within the mental health and wellness industry. Don’t be afraid to research and educate yourself on Black mental health trailblazers. A simple search for Black mental health pioneers can help you learn about the many trailblazers that have been overlooked for far too long.
There have been huge strides within the Black community to destigmatize Black mental health, a task that has not proved to be easy. Therefore, safe spaces and platforms like Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk deserve support. Supporting the importance of Black mental health can come in many forms including using ADAA’s Black Communities page to read and share stories from the community. Whether it’s reading books focused on Black mental health like The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health by Rheeda Walker, PhD, or listening to podcasts like Therapy for Black Girls that highlight mental health experiences in Black communities, there is always a way to show support for Black mental health.
No matter how it looks for you, I hope you do your part to help raise awareness and #BreakTheStigma in the Black community. When you truly embrace and acknowledge the importance of Black mental health, you realize it’s more than just a month-long celebration. It’s an experience that becomes more rewarding each day you participate and embrace these practices.
Tiara Johnson is a part-time short-term consultant (January through March 2022) working with ADAA on enhancing DEI communication and engagement for the public community. Tiara is public relations and corporate communications specialist that blends her passion of mental health advocacy to help create effective messaging among various audiences. Tiara also has experience creating and implementing strategic communications plans across multiple industries.
Prior to joining ADAA, Ms. Johnson wrote a book Living with 2020 Vision, highlighting mental health stigmas within BIPOC communities. Tiara Johnson is the founder of Embrace MH LLC, a mental health awareness and lifestyle brand dedicated to amplifying conversation surrounding mental wellness. She also hosts the EmbraceMH Podcast.
Tiara holds a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism with a minor in Marketing from Georgia State University.
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