As a mental health professional, I am often asked why African Americans do not go to therapy, or I’m asked to address the notion of the stigma on mental illness. These are things that I have addressed in this column before.
One bit of advice that I often share is that many African Americans can be more proactive in our own mental and emotional health care. It is no secret that we, as African Americans, live under constant toxic stress. Therefore, the need for mental health first aid is needed.
The following are three ways to improve your mental and emotional health in the year ahead.
One of the more unfortunate things I notice with people is that we do not have the opportunity to be exposed to other cultures, people, places and spaces. Since we have this lack of exposure, our worldviews are limited.
A worldview is a mental model of reality. It is our comprehensive framework of ideas and attitudes about the world, ourselves, and life, a system of beliefs, a system of personally customized theories about the world and how the world works.
You should do something intentional this year to expand your worldview. It might be going to a new country or neighborhood, spending time with a group of people from a different background, or visiting a different state. Exposure is a wonderful way to develop your emotional capacity.
Use YouTube as a university
The Internet offers one of the greatest opportunities for us to develop and move forward in life. Unfortunately, too many people do not see the opportunities that the Interment provides at the simple press of a button.
One of the most underutilized resources African Americans have at our disposal is YouTube. Probably one of the most important inventions within the last 15 years, YouTube is a database of information and knowledge that can be utilized to assist with most anything someone wants to learn.
YouTube is a library of information rivaling any major university in the world. YouTube has enough constructive information that it could be argued that they should be able to confer degrees and diplomas.
Find alternative care professionals who understand Black culture
Healing is a process that can take place with or without a professional. Either way, we all need some assistance as we move through our own healing journey. There is a stigma in the community around seeking mental health care that is based on several factors, including historical trauma. However, this should not prevent us from getting the care we need.
Finding alternative methods of care can provide quality results. These alternate methods of care can come from a variety of individuals, including yoga instructors, life coaches, business coaches, support groups, personal trainers, and so forth.
However, the important correlates amongst these healthcare professionals are the need for a firm understanding of African American culture and the ability to provide a constructive result for you for the reason you have engaged them.
Now, the three strategies above are not 100 percent solutions to the issues you may be facing in life. These are strategies to help improve and build your capacity. We are already several weeks into 2018, and many people have not completed any steps toward achieving any goals for the year.
The healing needed in the community is beyond mental health. We will not be able to address our issues just by attending individual, family, and group therapy sessions. Mental health therapy is useful and beneficial; however, our issues are so very complex and compounded that we must access creative ways to address them.
The more strategies we can utilize, the better off we can be as a collective. As a group, we must begin to use our collective genius to address our issues of toxic stress and trauma. We have done it before and can do it now.