Minority Mental Health Month: Pushing Past Stigma
Another July, another Minority Mental Health Month! This Minority Mental Health month is extra special for me. If you follow the site, you know that I’ve been on a long hiatus. After 9 months of pregnancy and a few months of recovery and readjustment, I’m finally ready to continue my work as a mental health advocate just in time for July! This year, I’ll be zeroing in on my own culture and community, so look out for spotlights on brave men and women from the Caribbean (I’m first generation Guyanese American myself) , sharing their mental health journeys to break the stigma! Storytelling is such an essential part of stigma breaking. Facts and figures have their place, but nothing hits home like hearing a personal story from someone who looks like you, has similar life experiences or comes from the same place.
Wondering what you can do to make an impact this Minority Mental Health Month? I have a few tips below to get you started!
Start a Conversation
Mental health is hard to talk about. The stigma around mental health issues is still so strong, especially amongst PoC. During difficult times like these, you’ll find a ton of mental health and self-care articles that talk about trauma and that’s important, but remember to take the conversations that arise from these articles further. Take these discussions beyond news, tragedy and politics. While current events are definitely taking a dramatic toll on everyone’s mental health, remember that mental health is not something that we only turn to when we are hurting, it’s something that we challenge ourselves to improve upon on a daily basis. When painful conversations surrounding mental health come up, don’t stop at tragedy and trauma – ask friends and family what they are doing to heal. Say the words “Mental Health” because unfortunately, when people are hurting the most, they also tend to be more willing to look past the stigma.
Let’s Keep Pushing for Resources
The biggest challenge that PoC face when it comes to mental health is access to resources. Besides the lack of awareness and education on mental illness in minority communities, it is also incredibly difficult for those seeking help to find a therapist. I’ve even heard reports of mental health professionals discriminating against PoC when reaching out to new clients. And then, after most likely spending a lot of time trying to find a therapist, PoC often have to deal with microaggressions and a lack of cultural awareness.These experiences can have a negative impact on the mental health of an individual who is seeking help. Distrust in mental health professionals is something that can potentially cost someone their life.
There is still a disturbing lack of diversity among mental health professionals and this means that those that are seeking help might end up with someone who does not understand, or has not been trained to understand, the daily stressors that marginalized communities face. Imagine not being able to even find a therapist that speaks the same language as you. We need diversity amongst mental health professionals because the lack thereof is effectively limiting access to a large part of the population. Psyhcologytoday.com is an excellent resource for finding a therapist that fits your requirements
So, What Do We Do?
Build community, increase awareness and share our experiences. As hard as it can be to talk about mental health, it is so important that we do. We might be met with hostility. There will be those who try to diminish mental illness. Remember that for many PoC, thinking about mental health is perceived as a luxury. Because of a lack of education and resources, taking care of one’s mental health is an option that was likely never presented to our parents or grandparents. They will give you the answers that their parents gave them – pray it away, try to forget about it. They will try to blame you for your illness, telling you to “Get over it” the way that someone probably told them in their past.
Many marginalized people are still new to the idea of mental health as legitimate pain, equal to that of the physical body. Many still connect the words “Mental Health” to shame and secrecy. I’m determined to make a safe space for minorities suffering from mental illness and I know that many other advocates are too.
Let’s move forward and heal together.