Take A Note: Mental Health May 15, 2019 – Posted in: Uncategorized

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month… I have not stopped to think much about it in years past.  However, as time moves on we are seeing more stress in our work place, more tension in our government, more anger in our streets, more nightmares appearing on our news stations…  Road rage feels like it’s at an all time high.  Our thoughts and prayers are doled out on a weekly basis.  Our children are learning how to take cover at age 5.   We by all definitions are a world that is dealing with A LOT.  We need to process.  We need to communicate our emotions.  We need to release. We need to BREATHE.  And we need to check on our mental health now more than ever.

Mental illness effects all of us no matter our background or DNA. “Studies show 1 in 5 Americans will experience a behavioral health disorder in any given year regardless of age, race, religion, gender or economic status. Anyone can develop a mental health disorder. However, there are factors that can increase the vulnerability to and severity of mental health disorders in the African American population and decrease their likelihood of seeking and receiving adequate treatment, including: RACISM, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, POVERTY, VIOLENCE, OR LACK OF PROVIDER CULTURAL COMPETENCY.” (https://www.arundellodge.org/5-factors-that-affect-mental-health-in-african-american-communities)

“In the black community, there is a negative stigma surrounding mental health. Instead of seeking professional help for conditions such as depression and anxiety, many in the community resort to self-medication (drugs, opioids, alcohol, etc.) or isolation in an attempt to solve their problems on their own. This issue of masking pain is especially prevalent amongst black men… Black men grow up in culture that tells us “men are not supposed to cry,” that we “should deal with problems on our own.” This only enforces the idea that it’s not okay for us to say we are hurting inside…  [January 1 – July 27, 2018 alone there had] been over 6.8 million black Americans who had a diagnosable mental illness. If we are unable to remove the negative stigma surrounding mental health in the black community, we are willingly allowing another generation to grow up without access to counseling and mental health improvement resources that can help them live a happy, healthy life. ” (https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/July-2018/Challenging-Mental-Health-Stigma-in-the-Black-Comm)

Women are also not exempt from mental illness. In fact, “women are at least twice as likely to experience an episode of major depression as men, Erica Richards reports. And, compared to their Caucasian counterparts, African American women are only half as likely to seek help.” (https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/mental-health-among-african-american-women).  Since the dawn of time women have strapped that ol’ “S” on their chest and given all of themselves – to their families, to their work, to their communities.  The true superhero is the one that can also put herself on the list of priorities.  She is not afraid to say no.  To ask for help.  To set boundaries.  To take a b.r.e.a.k.  She knows there is true value in acknowledging her feelings, her fatigue and sheer exhaustion, and taking some time just for herself to regenerate!

So what can we do for one another to help fight against mental illness??  There is no one answer and several people will have their own opinions. I like to keep it in simple terms:

  • Learn to evaluate WHAT you are feeling, WHY you feel that way and that it’s OKAY to feel that way.  We gloss over and ignore and hope our luggage will just go away some how. Face it. Own It.  Don’t let “it” take charge.
  • Like the song goes, EXPRESS YOURSELF!  One of the best coping mechanisms is to talk.  To a friend, a professor, family, mentor, doctor.  Holding it in is almost never the answer.  We are bound to explode.  There is no shame in exposing your vulnerabilities.  Therapy is not for the weak as we may have been subconsciously taught.  If talking is not your thing… find another outlet that helps YOU release.  Exercise.  Get crafty.  Read.  Write.  Volunteer.  Pray. However you choose to express yourself, the world is waiting.

Write It Out – Journaling is therapeutic!

  • See someone, SAY something!  This one has a range of how far you want to take it, but some people just need to be reminded that there is good in the world.  Make eye contact and share a smile with a stranger. Hold a door open.  Say the word “hello.” Strike up a conversation.  We walk around in our own often frustrated bubbles – you may just have the power to touch someone drowning in their own isolation.
  • “ME” time is ESSENTIAL!  Couples clear out time for date night – why can’t we carve time out for ourselves?  It carries the same principles: quality time with your significant other – in this case YOU – is what keeps the balance of your life stable.  Go out solo.  Stay in solo.  Mediate. Pamper.  Whatever you want to do in your alone time is up to you with one rule: do it alone!                                                                                        
  • Accept that other people have a different approach and/or view from you – and ACCEPT your differences! Don’t try to force your perspective on others.  Our world will be a better place if we can strive to be one where diversity is a virtue and we acknowledge that the unknown may actually work towards self-improvement!

I pray that we as a community and a nation get the help that we need to address the growing issue of mental illness.  We don’t have to do it all.  It’s not our way or no way.  We don’t have to go it alone…

Health Benefits of Journaling:

“There is increasing evidence to support the notion that journaling has a positive impact on physical well-being. University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker contends that regular journaling strengthens immune cells, called T-lymphocytes. Other research indicates that journaling decreases the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Pennebaker believes that writing about stressful events helps you come to terms with them, acting as a stress management tool, thus reducing the impact of these stressors on your physical health.” (www.psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling)  To view the SHADES OF COLOR JOURNAL COLLECTION click HERE.

Shades of Color Journal Collection

– Written by Janine Robinson