By Christina Greer, Ph.D.
I recently found out July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to support Black and Indigenous people on their journey towards a more holistic and healthy mental health.
So many people in our communities suffer from stress and anxiety, which affects not only mental health but physical health as well. Black and Indigenous communities have disproportionate rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and so many other ailments large and small due to the systemic and institutional forces of racism that surround them in all facets of their lives, in education, the work force, housing, the environment, and more.
So many Black and Indigenous people suffer from a myriad of mental health issues that stem from not being able to fully speak their peace, dealing with family and society traumas, and overall feelings of not being listened to. There are so many people who are trying to hold it all together and sometimes it is just too much.
I often remind my students (and myself), we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. We are constantly witnessing suffering all around us, whether watching war on the news or seeing unhoused men, women, and children sleeping on the streets or our cities and towns. We are dealing with the financial strains of rising prices on everything from gas to groceries. By and large, our wages are staying the same and the prices for so many goods and services continue to rise. People are dealing with crippling medical and school debt and for many, they do not see a light at the end of the very long tunnel.
There are a host of workshops provided by the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network to help people deal with issues ranging from bias to burnout, geriatric mental health, and even peer group work. So many families are dealing with a loved one who is experiencing varying levels of psychosis or dissociative disorders or depression, ranging from minor to crippling. So how can we support those suffering from mental health challenges as well as their family members who are trying to navigate these challenging relationships?
First, we can serve as a listening ear to those in need and those who love and support them. We can be present to let people vent and feel heard. Second, we can offer to find resources in different communities for different challenges. The National Institute of Mental Health has a host of resources and services for individuals and families that can be found at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help
Lastly, we can educate ourselves to help better identify when friends and family members are experiencing a mental health crisis. The world seems to be “a lot” for many people these days and we must remember to proceed with compassion as we navigate these challenging waters.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC