Every 107 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. A few years back in 2011, almost 24 million people needed therapy for drug abuse, but of those 24 million, only a fraction actually received treatment (11.2 percent to be exact). Approximately, every 12.9 minutes, a life is lost to suicide.
After hearing about more and more high profile black women dealing with mental illness as of late (the suicides of Titi Branch of Jessie’s Curls, Simone Battle of X Factor and singing group G.R.L., blogger Caryn Washington of For Brown Girls and others) I felt compelled to write this. In the black community, we as women are often ashamed of mental health – from addressing mental illnesses to being proactive and mentally checking in with ourselves and our loved ones to going to therapy – but the more we ignore our mental health the more and more we hurt and even kill ourselves.
I’m a tad bit familiar with this stuff, really because my mother and most of my immediate family works in the mental health field. I’m no expert, but from talking with my mom about her work, my interpretation of maintaining good mental health is as follows:
Find a Shoulder to Lean On
As women, we take on A LOT. As women, we are sisters, daughters, wives, mothers, entrepreneurs and everything else in-between. All of our “jobs” can be taxing, to say the least. It’s important to have someone you can confide in, someone you can lean on when it gets rough. We all know that we can go crazy in our own heads. You’ve been presented with a particularly difficult problem – you may want to run your ideal solution by some wise listening and CARING ears. You may have one of those “is it just me or is…” moments where comparing ideas with a trusted friend, family member or therapist even may help your own sanity. While you’re leaning on someone, try to be the shoulder for someone else. Be a listener and a soundboard for someone you care about and keep the love flowing.
Don’t be Sick with Secrets
My mom works with drug addicts and this is one of the main concepts encouraged in therapy. Addiction, especially, depends HEAVILY on secrets and lies to keep the addiction going. The same goes for many other things. Maybe everything doesn’t need to be told…but the secrets that hurt you need to get up out that head. If you’re crying over something you’ve kept from someone or stressing about secrets, you’re hurting your mental health. And although releasing a painful secret may seem like the scariest thing in the whole entire world, the refreshing feeling of that release once it’s told outweighs any and all anxiety about the secret itself. Trust me on this one and don’t be sick with secrets.
You are Not Alone
We all go through thangs. I mean thangs. No one is perfect and no one leads a perfect life. But as you can see from some of the stats above, a lot of people suffer from mental illness and other things that affect mental health. Don’t be ashamed if you are bi-polar, you’ve tried to commit suicide, you can’t put that bottle down or if you can’t deal with the past or the everyday stressors. Behind you, there are millions who share your confusion, your pain, your sadness…and most importantly, your strong desires of sound mental health.
Ladies, we love on many, but we tend to love on ourselves last amidst our hustle and bustle. We also fear the stigma of anything mental health-related. Since when has taking care of you been a crime? It isn’t, so stop punishing yourselves – check in with yourself mentally and encourage your sister to do the same, because if you always put yourself in last place, you will never ever win.