“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes

from the teaching of biography and history.”

― Carter G. Woodson

 

Black history month is a momentous time for us to celebrate blackness in all its glory. We know history

hasn’t been kind to us but we use this time to highlight, honor, and recognize what our ancestors shined

at and to also give flowers to the black people who are currently making history. We remember the civil

rights leaders who gave everything they had for our equality, the innovators who are often forgotten for

their world-changing contributions, poets and authors whose words have lingered with us and healed

us, entertainers and athletes who have won many “firsts”, and the entire black community for existing

and thriving in a world that has been unkind.

This year’s black history month’s theme is black health and wellness. It’s such a timely theme, at a time

when the inequities in healthcare for black people, have led to the loss of so many of us. Black wellbeing

is curtailed by the continued systemic and institutional disparities, that prevent black people from

achieving good health and care.

These gaps in healthcare also extend to mental healthcare for black people as Mental Health

America reports:

Black people are offered medication or therapy at lower rates than the general population.

Black and African American people with mental health conditions, specifically those involving

psychosis, are more likely to be in jail or prison than people of other races.

Only 4% of the psychology workforce is Black/African American.

We appreciate that more black wellness practitioners are coming up on the social media scene , to

validate the black experience and equip black people with the right tools for achieving wellness. Now is

the time to amplify these conversations and lift each other. Now is the best time to create more

inclusivity for those of us that are still marginalized in the black community, such as those who are

LGBTQ . When we are mindful of every one of us, our mental health, and how we show up in the world,

we create safe spaces for future generations to thrive and foster positive thoughts about themselves.

3 things you can do for collective black mental health and wellbeing

Help-seeking behavior, openness about struggle, and vulnerability are not common in the black

community because of the stigma that surrounds mental health. This works against us because we are

up against environmental trauma that plays out every day through microaggressions, discrimination,

and injustice. To be black in America is to always be on guard and look over your shoulders, because

anything could happen to you simply because of the color of your skin. Here is how you can make a

difference:

1. Abolish shame and judgment from your vocabulary

Black struggle has been glamorized for so long through film, literature, and oral history in a way that

paints us as inhuman, capable of enduring whatever comes our way. And we’ve also held each other to

the same unfair standard such that if one comes out with a mental health struggle, it’s immediately

dismissed or prayed away. Shame and judgment from the rest of the community have sentenced a lot of

people to a life of suffering and that’s not the way things should be. Some even consider it inappropriate

to have mental health discussions. Our blackness is not synonymous with endurance. Create safe spaces

for your loved ones to be themselves; flaws, struggles, and all that comes with being human. Encourage

everyone to talk about it – whatever it is.

2. Keep an open mind

Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and

celebrate those differences.” Not every black person you know and meet, will be like you or share in

your attitudes, beliefs, and opinions and that’s okay. They might have different views on identity,

religion, politics, race, marriage, and sexuality and that’s okay. Sometimes, these differences are seen as

a betrayal to the black community or whitewashing. This further divides us. Approach each interaction

with an open mind, so that if a fellow black person comes to you with a nuanced idea or opinion, you

don’t immediately shame them for it or get defensive but aim to understand them.

3. Educate yourself on mental health

They don’t teach about mental health in school so you have to self-educate yourself in your adulthood

and also educate the children in your life. Information is a powerful tool to eradicate ignorance and

stereotypes. Research shows that blacks consider anxiety and depression as “crazy” issues which is

untrue and unfortunate but many people believe that. Educating yourself looks like this:

Seeking therapy from culturally competent therapists who validate your experience and equip

you with the right coping strategies.

Following blogs, podcasts, communities, and social media pages that educate on black mental

health. Here is a list of resources. Also, follow our page @langniappetherapy.

Read books that help you heal your trauma. A great place to start is reading What Happened to

You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Dr. Bruce D. Perry and Oprah

Winfrey.

As we celebrate black history month, celebrate yourself for coming this far. To be a human of color, is

not an easy thing but here you are! Recognize your contribution to the national conversation on black

wellness and keep doing the work that’s needed for a better you and a better us. Read about the

wondrous works of black people in history and allow yourself to be enthused to do your part.

Compliment another black person who inspires you currently. Revel in your blackness. Rest in it. For it is

a powerful thing to walk this earth as a black person. Above all, invest in your wellbeing for without it,

there is no you. Caring for yourself is an act of political warfare and self-preservation.