Understanding what is going on
To begin taking care of your mental health, you need to understand the things that are affecting it. The two biggest events happening right now are the Black Lives Matter protests and COVID-19, and it is important to understand why these factors are affecting the mental health of many individuals.
The current protests began due to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN on May 25, 2020, after a police officer kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. George begged for his life and pleaded that he was in pain, could not breathe, and could not move, but the police officers ignored his pleas. The recent protests seem to be much louder and more widespread than they have been in the past and as a result, many are confused as to why there has been such a large worldwide response. This is because of a combination of factors, including the social isolation due to COVID-19 and the continued unjust deaths of Black and Brown individuals during the stay-at-home order (Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, and others).
It is worth noting that COVID-19 disproportionately affects people of color according to preliminary data released by the CDC. A couple of the reasons for this is the disparity in economic and social conditions that primarily affect people of color. This is due to how systems of education, government and the media celebrate and reward some cultures over others in ways that are often invisible. An example is how bandages come in “flesh-color” as pink/beige and this was unquestioned by a majority of people because white is the assumed default. A less benign example is the history of medical experimentation and poor treatment of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) that lead to higher rates of diabetes, substance use, high blood pressure and maternal death during pregnancy.
Years of this injustice, along with social media as a means to reach others and organize, have led to the development of the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement began as a hashtag on Twitter in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer George Zimmerman in 2013. This organization, started by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, developed into a global movement that is spearheading our current protests. The purpose of the organization is to connect communities, intervene when there is violence against Black communities, and provide a space for women, queer, and trans people to be recognized for their leadership in the work of liberation.
Now how does this relate to mental health?
Due to everything that is happening, some people might be experiencing retraumatization from centuries of intergenerational trauma, especially Black individuals. This retrauamtization can have a significant negative impact on the mental health of those in the BIPOC community. Others may be affected by compassion fatigue or burnout when dealing with the grief and shared pain of other’s suffering. This can lead to shutting down or avoiding any distressing information or news. It is especially important that BIPOC take care of their mental health to be strengthened as a community and continue the fight for liberation. It is just as important that others who are sharing in the grief and pain felt by the Black community also find ways to manage their mental health to effectively be allies in the fight for liberation. This is a challenge, and many may feel lost and have no idea where to start. Here are some useful tips that can help with finding where to start your mental health journey.
So how can I approach mental health?
“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”-Maya Angelou
In this challenging time it is important to find ways to practice self-compassion and allow yourself to find moments of peace. Some suggestions for approaching this are:
- Cultivate hope, love, compassion, and joy
- Listen to your emotions and accept what is there
- Examine the greater cultural context and how your fit within it
- Connect with others
- Reconnect with your mind-body connection through healing practices
Another approach is through radical healing. Radical healing is a form of healing for people of color that recognizes that true healing happens when we are connected and aim for wellness at the individual, family, community, and societal levels.
Here are suggestions of ways to utilize radical healing to build connection and community:
- Learn more about the issues that are affecting your mental health
- Work on self-care and individual healing/Engage in Mind-Body Healing/Nurture your spirituality and practice self-compassion
- Connect to others and be affirmed in your humanity and increase emotional intimacy
- Connect to the deeper roots of your identity and culture
- Learn more about your cultural and become curious about other cultures
- Take action and actively work towards social justice; Take action to address racism and inequities when you can
By staying psychologically and physically healthy during this time we are able to direct our focus where it is truly needed without distraction. You have all the pieces, we are here to give you the tools to connect to them. Contact us today to begin your journey to wellness.
This month’s post was written by Jessie Duncan, the TriWellness intern. You can learn more about Jessie here.