…because EVERYONE deserves a VOICE.
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.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
Martin Luther King, Jr. posed a great question – a question that we often look outward for the answer. We want to do for others in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, a disaster-stricken state or in an entirely different country that’s still developing. But what about the people close to us? The friends right around you? The family in your own house even? What about the people that are always there when you need them?
I had to do a family history project a few weeks ago for a class. I asked my mom some questions for the assignment, and a lot of things came up. She’s been through a lot (and has been through most of it on her own) and I felt overwhelmed – partly because of what all she’s had to overcome – but mainly because I felt that for a long time, she’s been there and then some for everybody else, but in the grand scheme of it all, she hasn’t had her own shoulder to lean on.
I have 2 sisters and between the 3 of us, you can imagine the ups and downs we’ve had, and the brunt of it all has been on our mother. It takes a special kind of woman to even fathom dealing with the stuff we’ve brought our mother’s way over the years. And on top of that, my mom is a therapist and a substance abuse counselor, so she helps people fix their lives both on and off the clock.
When I ask my mom about dealing with the bumps in the road she’s encountered in life, she said “I dealt with it, you know, I got over all of that stuff on my own eventually.” But it shouldn’t have to be that way. If the people we love can be there for us, we can surely be there for them.
I see it all like this. As we grow older, we learn that the amount of people that we can really trust and that truly care for us tends to get smaller and smaller. And once we’ve figured that out, we hold on to the people that are truly on our team really tight. And we lean on them. We lean on them so much, we may forget about their well-being. They may have stumbled and fallen themselves. But for many of them, virtually no one is there to catch them.
It may be your parents, a best friend, your long time mentor or your wise older cousin – whoever the people are you lean on, make a conscious effort to think about them. Be there for them. Let them know that they’re loved. Just because they are our relatives, our friends and our familiars doesn’t mean they don’t need looking after. And just because they support us through our rough patches doesn’t mean they’re immune to rough patches of their own.
Next time you call up your best friend to complain about your dead end job, next time you ask your sibling to get you out of one of your numerous stints with the law and next time you whine about the partner your momma been tellin’ you was no good, think about that “urgent” question Martin Luther King Jr. asked of us all.
The shoulders we lean on are just as good as we treat them.
Peace, Love & Consciousness