Having an open dialogue about mental health is challenging, and even more in communities of color. July is observed as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month to recognize the unique challenges and bring awareness to the mental health needs of Black, Indigenous people, and people of color.
Let’s talk about it! (Stigma and Cultural Myths)
People of all ethnicities experience mental health concerns at similar rates; however, people of color are less likely to seek care because of historical traumas and cultural stigma. Historical traumas such as colonization, slavery, mass genocide, forced assimilation, and displacement have had an intergenerational impact. The impacts of these traumas have created a sense of hopelessness and skepticism about the effectiveness of seeking mental health support.
Choosing to discuss your mental health concern takes a great deal of bravery. Especially when mental health isn’t a subject often discussed or acknowledged in your family or community.
“I don’t want nobody in my business.”
“What happens in this family stays in this family.”
“Toughen up, men don’t cry.”
BIPOC Kansans should continue spreading awareness about mental health as we hope to destigmatize our communities, make it more acceptable to talk about mental health, learn to cope, and heal our people.
Recognize the signs!
Prioritizing mental health awareness and support within our communities creates a foundation of empathy, understanding, and compassion. By fostering an environment that promotes open dialogue individuals can be empowered individuals to seek the support they need. You cannot generally see or always point out someone experiencing a mental health crisis. Here are a few general things you can watch out for in your friends or family.
Changes in behavior
Avoiding friends and social activities
Increased alcohol or drug use
Inappropriate anger or frustration
Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired or having low energy
As mentioned previously, many of the signs and symptoms listed are general and do not always indicate mental health crises but can be a starting place to begin a deeper conversation. If you have questions about your mental health status, please consult a licensed provider. We often assume that people of color are not having conversations about mental health. When in fact, we are just not using recognizable trigger words. Mental Health America started a campaign, “MyStoryMyWay” to encourage marginalized individuals to share their stories. They compiled a list of expressions that may be indicators that someone you love could be suffering.
Tips for improving your mental health this summer
TIP 1: Take time to unwind.
Life is busy and we all have various responsibilities that prevent us from taking time for ourselves. Holding space in your life for intentional self-care can help reduce your stress. Many mental health concerns have been linked to stress such as anxiety and depression. Try out some of these tools to boost your well-being.
Unplug from technology
Build/find a support group
Support groups will allow you to process your experiences and receive feedback from others about how they relate or their struggles. This can help to remind us that we are not alone in what we face and that other people understand and support us outside of just a professional. While support groups are open to anyone, they typically center on specific topics (grief, depression, drug use). Take some time to research and find the right group for your situation.
TIP 2: Finding culturally competent care
It is vital to find a therapist that makes you feel safe and understood. Before you schedule reoccurring appointments, ask if the therapist will host a consultation to make sure they are a good fit for you. If you are still looking for a consultation, you can also browse their website to find out what their specialty is. You want to make sure they are aligned with your needs.
As you consider the option of therapy it is important to be aware that finding a therapist of your desired race and gender, you may want to consider being flexible when it comes to choosing your therapist based on identity.
Here are a few questions that can get you started in the process of finding the right therapist for you.
Have you ever immersed yourself in a culture other than yours?
Is your clientele diverse?
What if anything, would you feel uncomfortable talking about?
How do you work with clients who have experienced racism, discrimination, or immigration-related concerns?
KBLC is committed to breaking the stigma that plagues the Black community and looks to address racial disparities with The Kansas Black Health Initiative. We encourage you to use this information and share it with your friends and family. Download this guide to find resources near you.
NAMI. Warning Signs and Symptoms. Accessed July 5, 2023. Available at: https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms
Mental Health America. Minority Mental Health Month 2018 - MyStoryMyWay. Accessed July 5, 2023. Available at: https://mhanational.org/minority-mental-health-month-2018-mystorymyway
McLean Hospital. Black Mental Health. Accessed July 5, 2023. Available at: https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/black-mental-health#:~:text=Black%20Americans%20Are%20Less%20Likely,major%20contributor%20to%20this%20disparity.