The Caribbean is seen as this place of paradise for visitors to come and frolic for a period of time and then return to their lives. The truth is that many people that live on these islands have never experienced the tourist attractions for the islands they live on. Underneath all the sunny days and rolling seas lies everyday people with thriving cultures built on independence from colonialism. The underlying social impact is slowly rising to the surface with the rise of mental health problems in the Caribbean.
Image courtesy of Kimberlé’s Twitter
The term intersectionality, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and scholar, describes the overlap of social group categorizations (race, gender, social class, etc) and its relationships to systems of oppression and discrimination.
The term intersectionality as it relates to mental health is important as the term can help minority groups describe our experiences as we navigate our social and political worlds. As Kimberlé noted in her TedTalk, when we are unable to name an issue, we are unable to fix the issue.
I first became familiar with the ‘black love’ term when the Obamas became the first family of the US. I didn’t fully understand the need to have a specific term to describe a black couple. The Obamas and the Carters have become the gold standard of black relationships in the US. Maybe that’s because of the preoccupation with social media and the need to find role models that we can identify with. This creates a certain amount of pressure to adhere to a society-approved relationship model as well as completely undermining those relationships that exists outside of the spotlight and have managed to thrive.
I’d like to say that I always liked being black, but I’d be lying. I’d like to say that I always liked being dark-skinned but I’d be lying.
I’ve just started writing this piece and my fingers are already unsteady. I’ve always lived in my head; played stories out there, held long deep conversations with myself when I struggled to find someone to connect with, and wrote long beautiful poems there. I’ve been the dark-skinned oddball in the family for so long, I don’t know how to be anything else. It took a very long time – 20 years – to start to embrace my complexion. I’d also always known that I was black, but until living in the US, I really didn’t know that I was black.
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.