The truth of the matter is that most people do not seek help for mental illness because of the stigmas that surround mental illness. If we are really honest with ourselves, we can acknowledge that we do not want to be shamed or seen as weak. Mental illness to some implies ‘less than normal’. For many of us, mental illness means that we have somehow caused our brains to stop functioning properly and we should, therefore, be ashamed of our deficits. Society tells us that only normal is acceptable. Yet, I’m still trying to figure out who decides the standards for normal?
Spirituality and mental health are very much related, but together they make many people uncomfortable and maybe even, confrontational. There is the age-old issue of therapists not wanting to work with clients who are of different faiths. There is the issue of therapists not wanting to work with clients whose lifestyles differ from their religious beliefs. There are clients who do not want to work with therapists who are not of their cultural and religious beliefs. There are, of course, counselors who involve the clients’ faith in their therapy. I belong to the latter group. If a client wants to discuss their religious and spiritual beliefs, I am very much comfortable with that discussion. If the client’s faith is unfamiliar to me, well then, it’s my job to do research to get to know that belief, and also to listen to the client’s experiences of that belief.
Image courtesy of Oprah.com
I think unlike any other race, blacks have had to endure excessive amounts of trauma that has lasted centuries and are hardwired into our psyche. These built-in emotional, cultural, spiritual, racial, and mental traumas have shaped our histories, our beliefs, values, and our strengths and weaknesses. When we say that black mental health is a necessity, we mean that we must be mindful of the hurt and trauma that lingers in our minds, bodies, emotions, and psyche. The late Maya Angelou said it best, “I come as one but stand as ten thousand,” because our souls are filled with the pain of the past hurts and continued triggers we still deal with.
So, I figured I would just jump right into the heart of the matter. I created this website to spread awareness about mental health, particularly black mental health. As a therapist, I am wholeheartedly in support of taking care of ourselves…mind, body, and spirit. I believe that self-care should be holistic and serve us in the ways that we need to be served. With that being said, I know that we understand the value of seeking medical expertise for our bodies and seeking God, or the universe, or whomever you seek for spiritual fulfillment, but we oftentimes neglect our mental health because we are not taught to take care of ourselves.
I am starting off my website with Les Brown’s quote, “You have to be willing to do the things today that others won’t do, to have the things tomorrow that others won’t have,” because this quote has stayed with me for the last year. I came across this quote from one of the many motivation videos on YouTube. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not crazy about the motivation hype but I do believe that there is some use for it and if you are really ready for a change, one thought or one action can change your life. This quote was a part of a speech he gave – and honestly I don’t even remember what the speech was about – but it really gave me pause. I think if you are at the point in your life where you are asking the big questions about life, the right person, or quote, or speech, or behavior can light a spark that can’t be ignored. For me, I had been asking myself, “Is this it?” Is this all I am going to do with my life? I felt like there had to be more to life. I had had this feeling for quite some time and it was causing me to be unhappy. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong until my girl, Kryssie, suggested that I explore YouTube – Okay, so I am an older millennial so I come from a time when we had no cellphones or social media, and the internet was a new thing. So, I still have my time when I just don’t want to be on social media and I don’t follow all the new apps that come out – so, anyways, I decided to see what was trending on YouTube and I came across TedTalks and other motivational videos. I searched talks until I came across a talk on feeling stuck and couldn’t believe that there was a whole world out there that understood how I felt. The issue that I had been having was that I didn’t even know how I felt so I didn’t have the words to express what I was feeling. These talks opened up my world in a way that I am still so grateful for.