Sit down. It’s about time we talk about this.
Shopping while Black, driving while Black, paying for merchandise with a check while Black, relaxing in the comfort of your own home while Black, jogging while black, and the list goes on and on.
All of these activities might seem basic and non-threatening to some, but to the Black community, these are activities that we would like to enjoy, but we’ve been conditioned to feel uncomfortable to the point that our anxiety builds up and we end up avoiding these every day and normal activities in fear that at any given moment, our lives will be taken away from us.
Beyond that, our ancestors have endured countless years of trauma starting from colonization, slavery and all of its horrors, segregation, Jim Crowe laws, lynchings, mass incarceration, gentrification, microaggressions, and police brutality, leaving generation after generation to pick up the pieces in a country where history always repeats itself.
So, we adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse and suppressing our emotions to place a Band-Aid on internalized oppression and issues that society has learned to just accept for what it is. The Black community is once again expected to rise above it all while we suffer with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and damaged interpersonal skills.
Today, mental health within the Black community is something that is starting to be discussed. However, we tend to forget the things that perpetuate generational trauma, Black trauma, and mental illnesses that often go untreated because of the distrust in the health care system due to their repeating history of systemic racism, culturally incompetent physicians, and the lack of Black physicians, especially those that specialize in psychology and psychiatry.
By no means are psychotropic drugs and empathy an antidote to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses that are acquired by people in the Black community as a result of oppression and trauma.
According to Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, “Research suggests that the adult Black community is 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems, such as Major Depressive Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Additionally, Black emerging adults (ages 18-25) also experience higher rates of mental health problems and lower rates of mental health service utilization compared to White emerging adults, and older Black adults.”
In the midst of social media being filled with news of one senseless killing of a Black person after another weighing heavy on our hearts, it is equally important that we prioritize our mental health. Trigger-heavy footage of killings of innocent Black people causes a peak in anxiety and fear within the Black community. Mental health should not be sacrificed for the sake of awareness.
Check in on each other and support each other through this difficult and traumatizing time. Not Black? Use your privilege to offer your support and resources and stand in solidarity because Black Mental Health Matters too!
By Jada Daniel, Beloit College, Freshman