“I’m NOT crazy. This is pointless.” I distinctly remember saying this to myself during the two sessions I could force some effort into at 15 years old in the months after my father’s passing.
I had a lot of trouble coping with this unfamiliar feeling of abandonment, and this caused me to spiral into what I now know as depression.
After plenty of school fights, visits to juvenile intake officers, and multiple suspensions, my mother thought it was best that I see a therapist. I, however, was not receptive to therapy at that age; I stormed out of my second and third session only 20 minutes into it. I didn’t understand its purpose or its impact.
Despite my objections, and due to my mother’s belief in “talk therapy”, I became overly aware of the importance of my mental health at a young age (unlike many of her Black counterparts in the Baby Boomer generation). This knowledge drove me to prioritize my mental health as an adult, especially in America’s current social climate.
According to Mental Health America, over 16% of the US’s black population (roughly 45.7 million people) were clinically diagnosed with a mental illness in the past year (over 6.8 million people.)
Through research, I’ve noticed that the two biggest issues that may keep Black community from moving past the stigma of mental illness are:
- the negative connotation of being “crazy” if diagnosed with a mental illness
- our lack of knowledge about & access to resources for proper treatment
Black millennials are too aware of how stressful life can be. In a society still stricken with racial and economic issues, we’re much more cognizant than previous generations of the effects of stress and the importance of mental health.
We have an obligation to the next generation to be the example that some of our parents failed to be. Here are some personal tips that are simple, but very effective, mood boosters:
Tips to Improve Your Mental Health
Keep a journal to express accomplishments and gratitude, no matter how small. You should attempt to complete an entry a day.
Take a vacation/personal days. Some of us don’t have the PTO and/or the money available to take a vacation, but it’s important to take [at least] a day for yourself. Planning a day off or a vacation gives you something to look forward to and can help boost our happiness!
Know your strengths and work them. Use your strengths to build self confidence and then move onto a harder task that challenges you.
Dark chocolate! Eating a few pieces every few days is thought to improve alertness and mental skills.
Buy a coloring book! Adult coloring books are all the rage and is thought to help clear your mind in as little as 20 minutes.
Laugh. Laugh. LAUGH.
Step away from social media. With the false reality that social media presents, there’s no wonder so many millennials are dealing with mental health issues. Leave your phone at home one day, ignore all of your alerts. Take a step away from technology and do something fun with a friend.
Most of these ARE NOT TREATMENT for more severe mental health issues, they’re a great start to developing a positive outlook and cost nearly nothing.
Though I was not receptive to therapy initially, I would be remiss to not admit it’s impact on my life, and how overly conscious I am today of prioritizing my mental health. (I’ve personally used writing as a tool to relieve stress for over a decade.)
We have to be proactive in wanting change; the smallest step can create a larger ripple toward breaking the generational cycle for a better tomorrow.
For more information or mental health resources:
Blacktherapistnetwork.com serves as a directory of multicultural professionals in the mental health field. They raise awareness about mental health and attempt to reduce the challenges a large portion of the black community faces by providing a platform that connects you with a therapist that best fits your needs.
Therapyforblackgirls.com is another directory full of black female mental health professionals throughout the US. Their aim is to provide black women with therapists who look like them and can understand their experiences.