Who Is Looking Out for the Mental Health of Black America?
I was not raised in the era of slavery, but I am having all the flashbacks, body memories, nightmares, anxiety and depression of my ancestors. I cannot get the image of Black bodies raped and mutilated at the hands of their owners and the government out of my mind. I am not safe anywhere. Not in my home, not in a park, not on the street, not in my neighborhood. There is nowhere for a Black girl to hide.
There is a lot of talk to white people right now about what they need to do to be anti-racist and rightly so. That is, however, not my job. There is also, however, an entire community of Black folks who are suffering under the weight of racism and all of these images of Black bodies dying. This is the imperative work we have.
Where is our help? We are having “post-traumatic ‘slavery’ disorder.” We are burdened with the oppression of our ancestors and with the fact that we are still in bondage to this day. Still experiencing violence at the hands of our oppressor to control us and keep us in our place.
What about our mental health? It is being compromised in every way and no one is dispatching crisis teams to our community. When there is a school shooting or a mass killing in a white community, the school or government sends in crisis teams. Therapists, rightly, en masse descend to address the needs of the community as long as it takes to heal the survivors. They even bring along the therapy dogs. Even those who are quarantined in the time of a pandemic are afforded free therapy (with special hotlines and telehealth) but nothing for Black folks in our times of crisis.
What does a Black community get when the police or just regular white citizens are killing us? I tell you what we get. The national guard, the state police, the exact people who caused the harm in the first place. No counselors to be seen.
What is this all about? Our mental health is not a priority. The presumption is that we are resilient and are used to all kinds of violence and therefore do not need counseling. I am here to tell you that is not true. We already have limited to no access to culturally appropriate mental health care. So we tend to shun such treatments. But we need therapy and psychological intervention now as much as ever. I know for me the PTSD is debilitating. The images on the TV of the Murder Porn are debilitating. I see George, Ahmaud as a brother, Breonna as a sister. How do I grieve? Where is there space for that? How am I supposed to process all of this when the onslaught is daily and relentless? Where do I turn? Who is concerned about how I am coping? Sure, I can show up in the streets and let my voice be heard but to what end? We have been protesting for decades and our progress has been incremental at best.
I need to heal in the here and now. I need to talk about how this is impacting me and destroying my mental health. I am one of the lucky Blacks who has good health insurance and goes to therapy. I could not, however, find a Black specialist in what I needed. We need to do something about this.
Yesterday I called my white therapist to have an emergency call because I was at a loss on how to deal with my grief and PTSD, but she can only say so much and only I can say so much to her. She will never understand my plight and cannot relate to racism but in this time, she was helpful and gave me meaningful direction. I left the call feeling better and with purpose to reach out to those in my community who can relate, and to write this story to express myself in writing since it is all for now that is available to me.
So, if you are Black in America seek out help. You should not have to bear this on your own. Therapy works and really makes a difference with the right therapist.
We are suffocating under the weight of violence perpetrated in our communities (under the knee of our oppressor) and we need help to process the impact of racism on our lives. Reach out. There is help available. I volunteer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.org) and they have free support groups and classes you may find helpful. Also, Therapy for Black Girls has a website (with a list of Black women therapists), podcast and Facebook page that are meaningful spaces.
You do not need to be strong in the face of this. This really is too much to bear alone.
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