In today’s post, the founder of Pray with Our Feet and freelance writer Emelda De Coteau shares insight on the importance of Black mental health care. She offers a few resources and tips for Black women who are seeking support. I’m so excited to have Emelda join Good Life Detroit each month, sharing a well-being article to encourage and inspire you!
If I close my eyes, and become still, the ache of those moments returns. It felt nearly impossible to escape a cascade of emotions which enveloped our family then– despair, fear, and growing frustration. Our loved one sat before us, while firmly fixed in another world we could not penetrate, despite our determined will to break through their fortress of mental chaos and anguish.
Finally, we found a support group (run by National Mental Health Alliance, NAMI) to help cope, and for the first time, we witnessed our pain in the eyes of folks who looked like us. Here, in this space, we could surrender the heaviness and simply speak. You have everyone’s sympathy for visible illnesses, but there is a deafening silence when you mention mental health.
As Black folks, our history is imbued with the survival of systems meant to annihilate us. The false ideology of White supremacy taught generations to swallow sorrows, rather than name them. Our emotions are still considered invalid, unworthy of recognition, even after over 400 years of collective struggle in this country.
NAMI details some startling, though not surprising statistics on its website:
“According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness, hopelessness, and feeling like everything is an effort. Black adults living below the poverty line are more than twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those with more financial security.”
In recent years, the escalation of state violence against us, mainstreaming of racist extremist groups, vile rhetoric from our former President, and the devastation of COVID-19 remain persistent reminders that as Black folks, our mental health must be prioritized, not merely as survival but as collective resistance.
BLACK MENTAL HEALTH AND UNDERSTANDING INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA
A few months ago, I heard Dr. Mariel Buquè talk about avoidance as a response to trauma on The Good Ancestor Podcast, and insights from this conversation stayed with me. I have come to clearly see that we cannot grapple with our mental health without first understanding the connection to intergenerational trauma– the health of one generation being inextricably connected to the next one:
“When the fabric of our very humanity is excessively compromised, (interpersonally) through emotional, verbal, or physical abuse, (or systemically) through oppression, genocide, and other acts psychological, physical and spiritual violence, it creates a wound of the soul. Left unattended, it can become a wound that is carried through the lineage and sometimes even into entire communities,” Dr. Buquè writes in her blog piece, “What Is Intergenerational Trauma?”
Access to mental health care and spaces within our communities for healing and sacred rest are not luxuries, they are essential for our liberation.
“As Black folks, our history is imbued with the survival of systems meant to annihilate us. The false ideology of White supremacy taught generations to swallow sorrows, rather than name them. Our emotions are still considered invalid, unworthy of recognition, even after over 400 years of collective struggle in this country.”
FINDING RESOURCES FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH CARE
Celebrated writer and activist Rachel Cargle created the Loveland Foundation which provides financial help for Black women and girls who need therapy. You can apply here.
If you are insured or have access to pay for culturally competent care, Taraji P. Henson’s organization, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, shares a directory of African American therapists on their website, along with access to free virtual therapy sessions for teens (made possible by the foundation).
And if, at this moment, you need support, consider two practices to begin nourishing yourself daily:
Journaling: Sometimes talking to friends about your struggles is tough; they don’t always have the mental bandwidth to listen. Instead, begin to unload what you carry throughout the day onto the page.
It’s called a “brain dump” (a well-known journaling technique). Don’t worry about grammar or style. Simply begin to release whatever you are feeling in the moment. This kind of self-reflection helps us begin to recognize patterns in thought, behavior, and choices. Awareness is a critical part of nurturing our continued mental well-being.
Meditation: Tune in to guided meditations and embrace healing self-care practices with the Shine app (founded by two women of color) that encourage us to center calm in the midst of hectic days.
Insight Timer is another wonderful resource, with hundreds of free guided meditations and live meditation sessions/talks with teachers around the world.
Even in the midst of all the challenges facing us individually and collectively, there is help. We are not on this journey alone. Lean into resources and support.
Emelda De Coteau is a loving wife, mama, creative, and believer seeking God anew in each moment. Although based in Baltimore, this daughter of a Honduran immigrant feels at home throughout the world.
Emelda serves as the founder of Women Creatives Chat, a community centering wellness and empowerment for women of all artistic disciplines through events (both online and live), workshops, and mindful products and services. She also writes about wellness and holistic healing practices for Modestine Tea and Breaking the Silence…Healing the Pain.
You can read Emelda’s first feature on Good Life Detroit here if you like. Special thanks to Emelda for sharing her insight on the importance of Black mental healthcare. Look out for more of her writing on GLD!
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