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Reflecting on the Rise of Mental Health Awareness and Self-Care Within the Black Community

Photo by: Amanda Ashley/Amanda Ashley

As we’ve settled into the new year, many people are sticking to a typical new year’s resolution of saying goodbye to stress!

We fully acknowledge that from 2020 to 2021, we were all glad to say goodbye to the things that troubled us. Many vowed to no longer hang on to things that no longer serve them – from toxic relationships and work environments, to other situations that we have just outgrown.

And in recent years, the concept of taking care of one’s mental health and engaging in self-care is becoming more prevalent.

Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise of Black people prioritizing their mental health and incorporating self-care in their daily lives.

Developing a self-care regimen can be good for your health, and it doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. And no… engaging in self-care is not selfish.

Self-care is defined as “the ability of people, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the assistance of a healthcare provider,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Mental health requires both physical and psychological security. However, safety is not always guaranteed in the Black community.

A mental health crisis is caused by circumstances, including institutional racism and societal stigma. So, it’s crucial to understand how these issues affect the Black community’s mental health and well-being.

Amanda Ashley Taylor, a licensed mental health counselor and owner of Lit Session in Gainesville, Florida, shared insight on how the Black community is affected by mental health challenges and how she incorporates self-care into patients’ lives.

“I think that society has kind of made it a joke like Black people don’t need therapy,” Taylor said. “Black people, there’s no therapy. We just need to work it out and figure it out. But I think these stigmas exist for a reason.”

In the mental health community, Taylor’s role is to create equitable spaces and advocate for Black patients.

According to Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, Black adults are 20% more likely to experience mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Over 25% of Black youth exposed to violence are vulnerable to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the American Psychological Association reports.

When exploring the why there’s distrust of therapy in the Black community,  there’s seems to be a lack of understanding the trauma lens within the Black community.

“Understanding trauma lens, for example, so many of the black population, most of us have lots of trauma, whether it’s passed on or whether it’s something that we’ve experienced first-hand or whether it’s a shared trauma or experience that we have with someone else,” she explained. “You know, we have lots and lots of trauma. And so, a lot of the responses culturally that we have to certain disorders. They look different.”

Not only does the mental health industry not fully understand Black trauma and our mental health struggles in the community, but it is also even more challenging to become a Black therapist.

“To become a black licensed therapist is not the same experience. It’s not the same journey, there are lot more obstacles,” Taylor shared. “Often times we are not introduced to the same cohort of people, we don’t have the same connections, we don’t have an uncle over here that could just, you know, help us out. We don’t know all the steps a lot of the times. It takes us longer statistically to get licensed if we get licensed at all. Because to get licensed, you have to have a supervisor who’s willing to supervise you. And if we’re at the bottom of people who they want to supervise, it’s that much harder for us to find places to become supervised.”

She added that despite the many mental health issues and factors that have compromised the Black community’s ability to function, she believes Black people are the most resilient people in the nation because of that.

But it is tiresome, she said.

The Gainesville counselor also shared her thoughts on the rise of prioritizing mental health and self-care within the Black community.

“There’s been a huge shift, and I love it,” Taylor said. “Like there’s been a huge shift in mental health and Black mental health by Black mental health is a thing now. Are you kidding me? Like, no, we are definitely owning things and taking ownership of our mental health and our health, and we’re realizing that that is a thing.”

When it comes to giving suggestions to her clients on how they can improve their mental health and dive into self-care, the 10-year counselor provided us with some insight into ways people can improve their mental health through these methods.

She said she tries to teach people that it’s mainly a mindset shift.

“It’s not about the candles or the vacations. It’s about the time spent with yourself and the mindset that you’re in, the compassion that you have for yourself, the love that you have for yourself in that time,” Taylor stated.

She recommends what she calls a “done list” to all patients and it includes the things she prescribes.

“Like positive affirmations can make people feel uncomfortable if they’re not used to it, so get used to it. Put them around just so that you’re reading them. If you can’t say them yet, right? Just so that you see it, the Wellness wheel is something I live by, it’s something that I do with every one of my clients because it puts your perspective on everything that influences your mental health, not just hide failing,” Taylor said.

What are some ways that you engage in self-care?

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