Written by Audrey Taylor, Clinical Lead, Family Reconnect

History tells us of our past and provides important lessons for our future. While the knowledge of and the study of the past is important, as it is the story of who we are, where we come from, and can potentially reveal where we are heading. Having good mental health is essential for all of us in understanding ourselves and world around us.

Good mental health is as essential as the air we breathe.

Just like the air is at times contaminated with pollutants and can interfere with our breathing, so to does our daily living experiences, environment and history impinge on our ability to develop and maintain good mental health.
One of the difficult issues with the mental health industry is its inability to clearly differentiate between “mental health” and “mental illness.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Mental Health involves effective functioning in daily activities resulting in:

  • Productive activities (work, school, caregiving)
  • Healthy relationships
  • Ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity and

Mental Illness refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders — health conditions involving:

  • Significant changes in thinking, emotion and/or behavior
  • Distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities”[1]

Many Black folks hold deep mistrust of the services in this industry. These mistrusts are not unfounded. Much empirical data exists on the mistreatment, experimentation, sub-standard care, and discriminatory practices against Black folks in the mental health industry. Black people hold different ways of knowing and practices that could be beneficial but goes unrecognized by the larger society. For example, some Black people may use spirituality as means of comfort and well-being and would like that recognized during service with a mental health professional. A client told me that she told her psychiatrist that she believed in God and the psychiatrist wrote down that she was delusional.

If you ever need mental health services, do due diligence, ask questions:

  • What is the institution’s history of treating Black people?
  • What are the beliefs of the institution?
  • Are they culturally aware?
  • Does the service provider have knowledge of Black folk experience in this society?
  • What experience have other Black folk have with the service provider?

If you suspect early signs of mental distress, seek help early. It often takes time, sometimes, many visits to various professionals before a provider find out what is going on and often many medication adjustments before the right fit are found.

Good Mental health is the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning, resilience and self-esteem. Mental health is also key to relationships, personal and emotional well-being and contributing to community or society.

There are many thing a person can do build good mental health. Take care of yourself by:

  • Eat nutritional meals
  • Avoid smoking and vaping (marijuana can induce psychosis)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Exercise
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Surround yourself with good people
  • Seek help when you need it
  • Treat yourself with kindness and respect.

Mental illness does not discriminate; it can affect anyone regardless of your age, gender, geography, income, social status, race/ethnicity, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, background, or other aspect of cultural identity. While mental illness can occur at any age, three-fourths of all mental illness begins by age twenty-four [2].

Take care, stay informed and stay well!

[1] American Psychiatry Association, (www.psychiatry.org)
[2] Ibid