- July 19, 2019
Post submitted by George Johnson, writer and activist
Mental health is still a taboo topic across Black communities. Although many of us are now starting to break that cycle, it is still very much one of those things we don’t talk about enough, nor do we have enough resources to make informed decisions about how to even start. For centuries, we have found solace in the church, communal spaces and each other. However, it is important that we invest time in the practice of mental health in professional spaces where we can vocalize our issues in an objective safe space.
Many of us live at the intersections of race, gender and sexuality. These layers of marginalization create a multitude of oppression that requires nuance in discussing and processing our normal day-to-day lives. It is one thing to discuss being a man or queer or Black separately. It is something else when you are the embodiment of all three -- like I am -- and you face additional pressures from society around conforming in both white and Black, cis-het and queer spaces alike.
I face racism and anti-Blackness on a daily basis, both intersected with homophobia, which creates a dynamic that can be dangerous to my mental health. I don’t enter a room as just one thing. It is my intersections that make me different from the societal “norm,” and it is these differences that control my interactions, my thoughts and how I am allowed to show up in the world. And these are all things that are detrimental to my mental health.
I don’t just get to be without thinking about safety in all spaces I enter. My Blackness is inherently queer and can be attacked at any time.
For those reasons, I am a mental health advocate and a firm believer in the value of seeking mental health care. For me, practices of self-care are important in making it through the day. It’s about the ability to speak with someone about who I am without judgement, while also learning ways to process my “normal.” This has helped in healing old trauma while setting boundaries and breaking down the conditions I placed on myself that used to block me.
I often speak about the intricacies of living at the intersections because they all play a role in maintaining good mental health. Understanding how we are seen in the world, how we see ourselves and what to do when we struggle with both were my first steps to having the courage to address old wounds and start the path toward healing. I’ll be speaking more about this during a panel discussion at HRC that will be streamed live on HRC’s Facebook page on July 31.
For more information about HRC’s 2019 Minority Mental Health Month event and to RSVP, click here.