Mental Health in Minority Communities: It is Personal & Professional for Me

Featured Guest: DEVIN MYERS, Licensed Professional Counselor Associate

peaceful penguin
A Peaceful Penguin, Pondering Peace Perhaps?
Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa

Hello! Time is of the essence so let’s get right to it, shall we? I would like to share with you some of my journey towards obtaining better mental health. First off, I would like to thank you for taking time out of your day to read this. Time is all too precious a resource to waste so it means a lot to me that you would use yours to read my story. As you may have guessed, we’ll be talking about something that some people still consider taboo.

I happen to be an African American male who grew up in an African American community in the southeastern U.S. It is no secret that discussing mental health within this community has a stigma attached to it. Several studies (DeFreitas et al., 2018; Haynes et al., 2018) illustrate this unfortunate point. I believe that this is a result of generations of families having to persevere through hardships and present themselves as unbreakable individuals so that they can function in a society they felt was set up against them. I feel that mental health has definitely been put on the back burner (or perhaps not even on the stove at all) as a consequence of being in an environment where a person is focused on trying to survive daily.

When I was in middle school my parents divorced. Lord knows my mother did the best she could, with what she had, and for that I am forever grateful. This transition was extremely difficult for me, but I had no idea of the effects it would have on my mental health for years to come. It was only during my graduate coursework in my clinical counseling program that I understood how going through that experience had played such a vital role on the formation of the person I am today. I remember sitting in class one day and I had the epiphany that I would react in a certain way to people that hurt me. I was able to trace this hurt all the way back to how I learned to respond as a child experiencing divorce. It took an entire counseling program for me to learn about a wounded area that I did not even know I had!

I definitely had no intention of seeking any form of mental health counseling before enrolling in my program. However, I am so thankful that I did because I was able to address an area of my life that had been causing me so much pain and I question whether or not it would have been addressed to this day, if I had not been made aware of it. I believe we can all benefit from asking ourselves some deeper questions about how we’re really doing mentally. 

I understand that we have more than enough issues ravaging our communities when it comes to physical health, single parent households, navigating racism, etc. However, Mental Health is just as important as taking care of one’s physical health, if not more so, because it can play a vital role in how people take care of themselves or if they even believe that they are worthy of doing so.

In the short time I have spent working with kids, I have seen various mental health issues come forth in the form of “acting out.” The child who plays the role of class clown may be acting that way in response to not getting their desired attention at home. The bully who hurts others could be furious with the fact that their parents aren’t together and is unsure of how to process those emotions. What about the child who flies under the radar? This is the child who always smiles because they have learned that if they never present a negative emotion to those around them, then they do not have to talk about how they really feel, and face possible rejection. No matter what the problem, visible or invisible, children (and adults) should have their mental health checked on a regular basis.

There are many forms of self-care available for free ninety-nine. Exercise is a readily available source that has many positive benefits for our mental health (Mikkelsen et al., 2017) Maybe share a few with your friends and family members to help inspire them as well. This life was never meant to be done alone, so I encourage you to engage in activities that will better your mental health with those in your life. You never know who is struggling on the inside, so why not be the agent of change you wish someone was for you?

Okay, I think I have bored you all enough with my rattling on about the importance of mental health and my continuing journey with it. I truly hope you read something that at least piqued your interest in taking a deeper look into your own mental well-being. Thank you again for stopping by and reading this. Now, go forth and be great! Also, don’t forget to love yourself along the way! ^.^

DeFreitas, S., Crone, T., DeLeon, M., & Ajayi, A. (2018). Perceived and Personal Mental Health Stigma in Latino and African American College Students. Public Health, 26.

Haynes, T., Cheney, A., Sullivan, J., Bryant, K., Curran, G., Olson, M., Cottoms, N., & Reaves, C. (2017). Addressing Mental Health Needs: Perspectives of African Americans Living in the Rural South. Psychiatric Online, 68(1), p.573-578.

Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M., Bosevski, M., & Apostolopoulos, V. (2017). Exercise and mental health. Science Direct, 106, 46-56.

Published by k12civilleadership

K-12 Civil Leadership is dedicated to preserving racial and ethnic minority psychological safety by offering research & training to education leaders, education advocates, and organization leaders. Teaching collaboration through education-community partnerships, we can leverage positive social interactions in K-12 students to make a bold impact on generations to come.

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