Mid-Summer Mental Health Check: You Good Sis?
Happiness and peace of mind look good on everyone.
In the midst of all that is occurring this summer we must not forget to check in with ourselves and if necessary step back from the world to get re-aligned. No matter what the reigning trend is this summer, Black girl, Black woman please: place your self-care at the top of your priorities.
Recently, Empire star and award-winning actress Taraji P. Henson testified before congress, urging them to support efforts to increase awareness and treatments of mental health within the Black community. “I am here using my celebrity, using my voice, to put a face to this, because I also suffer from depression and anxiety.” Henson stated before members of The CBC Emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health, chaired by Congressman Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey.
“If you’re a human living in today’s world, I don’t know how you’re not suffering in any way.”
Henson, who founded her own organization The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, in 2018 has long been an advocate for combating the stigma surrounding mental health issues in the Black community, specifically as it relates to suicide and seeking treatment. “I really don’t know how to fix this problem, I just know the suicide rate is rising… I just know that ages of children that are committing suicide are getting younger and younger.” Henson noted. Her foundation is named after her father, who returned from the Vietnam War with a variety of mental health issues, including PTSD. Henson told Variety magazine, “We’re walking around broken, wounded and hurt, and we don’t think it’s OK to talk about it. We don’t talk about it at home. It’s shunned. It’s something that makes you look weak." She admits to dealing with her own bouts of severe depression and anxiety, which encouraged her to start seeing a therapist regularly.
And she’s not the only one. Earlier this year veteran actress, singer and dancer Jenifer Lewis, who struggles with bipolar disorder, spoke in support of finding a good therapist. The Mother of Black Hollywood author and black-ish star used her speech at the 2019 Black Women in Hollywood gala to advocate for those who’ve suffered in silence, saying it was difficult for her “to say three of most powerful words on this planet: please, help me…But I did it. And I got it. Seventeen years on that couch, I had to be re-raised.”
Both actresses are just two examples from a slew of celebrities who’ve in recent years, publicly discussed their battles with mental health. From rapper Big Sean’s announcement that he took a full year hiatus from the limelight to focus on gaining clarity in his life, to former Destiny’s Child singer and Broadway actress Michelle Williams’ announcement that she’s stepping away from her live show commitments to focus on her recovery from a bout with depression.
It’s clear that these issues don’t discriminate against anyone regardless of income, social status or color, however it has statistically had a more severe effect on the Black community. And we, as Black women, know there’s a whole host of issues and disparities we battle on a regular basis that are unlike other women, which makes us even more susceptible to these ailments.
In my own life, I’ve become all too familiar with being burned out on all ends and still feeling the need to “push myself.” It wasn’t until I’d landed myself in the hospital after passing out from extreme exhaustion in college (after months of debilitating depression tied to working two part time jobs AND going to school full time), that I realized and told myself bluntly: “it’s time to get help.” And here I am years later, with a Black therapist I see bi-weekly, a strict schedule that allows me to have some “do nothing” time and a more balanced view of life. So to all of you reading this please know, getting help is not a negative thing. It’s not taboo and it certainly does NOT make you weak. On the contrary, loves. Finding the bravery to admit you’re struggling is a strength within itself. We can only ever give to the world and our loved ones, that which we deposit into ourselves.
Don’t let you self-care go into a deficit, sis.
You’re loved and you’re best self is always needed. As Black women we collectively have a tendency to prioritize others’ needs before our own— nothing could be more detrimental to our health. And yes, it’s selfish, but being selfish occasionally is perfectly OK; necessary even. So whether you’ve been busy this summer getting “flewed out”, taking classes, interning, hopping from day parties to cookouts and the beach, or simply working and stacking your paper this summer, I implore you- take a minute, a day (a few days even) to check in with yourself. Rest. Meditate. Cry. Write. Dance. Travel. Cook. Go do that thing you’ve been wanting to do but “never” have time to. Do whatever you need to do to move forward in an empowered and healthy way. Trust me: the job, man, internship, class etc.. will still be there when you return.