A normal activity that I am doing during the lockdown and times of isolation is sitting down and have a real conversation with myself. I am journaling a lot to figure out my feelings and emotions, but sometimes I just got to use my voice and communicate with words and especially hands, because I love talking through or with the help of my hands, haha. 
But this is something that matters, keeping track with yourself, your health, basically your sanity.

I am taking care of my mental health a lot, I need to do this to function right, and so I wake up each morning and I check on myself. 

Today is February 17 and we are already half way through with Black History Month... especially in times like these, where one horrible event interrupts another, I wonder how everyone else is dealing with their mental health right now. I listen closer and I ask myself many questions about mental health. This is not only a white people issue, it is a black people issue, an Asian people issue, LGBTQ issue - it affects everyone out there, but I wonder why we still make mental health such a white focused topic - especially during Black History Month. I want us to focus on the mental health issues which get simply ignored. What we need is more access, knowledge, and simple understanding. 

Because fact is, mental health is not the same when it comes to color, status, religion, and what else comes to stereotypes and clichés. 

Yes, mental health is very complex and it is hard to conquer this whole mysterious thing by oneself. I am a white person who struggles with mental health and my journey is in the middle of somewhere - I am still not done with my journey and my healing needs daily attention, information, and know-how. But how do other people experience mental health? How do other communities respond or what kind of mental health issues are they facing?

Are we having the same mental health experiences or is every community having their own experience which makes mental health even harder to grasp?
Well, questions over questions, and somehow we could answer everything with yes. 

Mental health depends on so much: environment, family, genetics, lifestyle influences, and everything that we are dealing with every day. Mental health problems can accure all of a sudden, they can enter a very happy person's life, but it can also be inherited, meaning that trauma for example can get carried through generations, without you "being the one to blame". 

Since it is Black History Month, I want to focus on mental health and the black community. Comparing black and white beings in the field of mental health, one can definitely talk about cultural but also historical factors that play a role in helping define mental health and supporting well-being, resiliency, and healing.

Research suggests that the adult black community is 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems, such as Major Depressive Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Additionally, black emerging adults (ages 18-25) also experience higher rates of mental health problems and lower rates of mental health service utilization compared to white emerging adults, and older black adults. I bet you didn't know that.

Wonder why? Well, it is definitely not a secret that this experience comes from facing racism, discrimination, and inequity that can significantly affect a person’s mental health. Treating someone "less than" because of the color of your skin is not only stressful and hurtful, but also traumatizing. If this wasn't enough, the black community faces structural challenges accessing the care and treatment they need. A thing that a white person is not struggling with - we live in two different systems.
A sad thing for mental health, its approach, and also importance in daily life. It needs to be accessable for everyone no matter the skin color, family background, and general story. 

We are neglacting the diversity when it comes to mental health and the people who suffer from it. We cannot demonstrate one side only, but as history showed, this is the easiest and most common way to deal with a thing. One side wins, the other looses. It is what it is. 

Struggle is struggle... we all have to carry our little package. 
Well, I don't believe that white people and black people experience the same type of mental health issues, because white people play a big part why black people suffer. Whew, white people are victims themselves, but also the creator of so much trauma. Let that sink in. 

I'm not blaming every white person out there to be evil. Again, I am white myself and I am not into comparing skin colors, but we need to accept and understand that our skin colors mean a lot. We carry history along and most of it was not beautiful at all. We need to understand that there are differences which create so much pain - there is no more time to create further gaps, fear, and false hope. It's time to connect the dots and overcome what needs to overcome.

No, not deleting history. This is denying, but connect closer through knowledge and growth. Respect. Love, Speaking up and becoming active. Protecting each other and making sure that injustice and racism is not tolerated anymore. Not today, not in the future. 

We cannot end mental health issues tomorrow, but we can create a more beautiful togetherness, exchanges, and healing journey.

If you were sleeping for the last years, I hope that 2020 woke you up and showed you that there is a lot going on out there which seperates us even further from each other. While one side is trying to deny, pushing things aside, or simply ignore facts, moving on... the other side is struggling with more trauma, more anxiety, more pain. 

Being targeted as either way the weak person or the savage one who needs to take care of, the black community is battling with so much weight which is put upon them, the white community cannot even imagine how cruel and bitter this is. But still, people keep going. People stick with their patterns. 

Everyone wants to feel great and everyone wants to fully heal, but we only care about ourselves - rather helping us, before we reach out our hand to another person.
But how can one really heal, when there's no reached out hand in sight? What if you are in a community where therapy or other healing consultations are not respected or rather questioned? What if an easy appointment is not even easy to get? 

Stigma lies everywhere. Stigma is a hard buddy to overcome. Whew. 

There's a deep rooted mistrust when it comes to medical support, but it is also a cultural problem to seek help and admitting to be in a weak position or such. It's a cultural and community thing which is not easy to overcome as well, so people hide their symptoms rather to be in the spot light and feel embarrassed. 
When seeking for help, many black individuals are also more likely to be misdiagnosed by treatment providers. This can fuel the distrust toward mental health professionals as a misdiagnosis can lead to poor treatment outcomes. This terrible circle is not the best start to get out of trauma and centuries of pain. 
If this wasn't enough, with this info, black individuals are less frequently included in research, which means their experiences with symptoms or treatments are less likely to be taken into consideration.

So how can we talk about mental health all the time without actually knowing what mental health pain is really like out there? 

I feel like a cry baby when I think about what the black community has to go through. My depression sounds like a joke, when I just simply think about how it would be if I had to face racism because of my skin color. I cannot imagine it and I don't know how it feels, but I want to express my deepest support and love for everyone who encountered hate, social and racial injustice. 

It's not a secret, black people have a very enhanced sentiment of being self-confident and strong, because basically they have to in this fucked up world - but also because they went through a lot of shit in the past.
But not everybody is strong and inside there is always a lot of thinking and processing going on which needs the right outlet or at least enough attention to be dealt with. 

How can we bring more awareness and healing to the black communities? 

Well, healing is a cultural thing and it is connected to so much - this may be family connections and their values, a lot of expression through spirituality, music, and dancing, but also a lot of community and religious work. Enriching values, finding hope and peace, and most importantly resilliance and strength. 

But this is not enough.
Again, what can we do?
  • Check yourself. As I already mentioned, black individuals suffer stronger from mental health issues, and this is happening because their counterparts give them a hard time. Again, I am not saying that every white person is a racist, but I am saying that every white person needs to check his or her language and personal dictionary. We have been raised differently, on different continents, with different languages, and most importantly different generations. Langauge changes, attitudes changes, and we copy and learn a lot from family members and the people we spend our time with. We may not realize how negatively our words and values might be. Bring awareness to your words and attitudes and feel free to educate yourself to do better.

  • We need to bring awareness to the use of stigmatizing language around mental health problems! This means making mental health a very normal topic - nothing to be ashamed of and something very natural, because it basically is. 

  • Black culture is deeply rooted in church and community exchange that's why it's important to step closer to churches and religious institutions to educate church leaders

    > seek opportunities to connect communities with mental health providers in a more comfortable surrounding

    > provide depression education and treatment

    > add a tool kit that every institution can offer to people who suffer from mental health issues, so that they can feel encouraged to work with their own church or mosque without feeling ashamed. This can be a tool kit for adults, but also for grown-ups.

    > work on events which bring topics like mental health issues, suicide, self-harm, depression, and whatever is dealing with mental stress, closer to the people. Let them ask questions, exchange, give reading material away, and just be there and make the unheard voices be finally seen and heard. 

  • Educate your loved ones, friends, and family within the black community. Exchange with them and be the helping hand they need. 

  • I am writing here about my mental health experiences and I hope I can connect with all races out there, but I also truly believe that right now, we need to enhance black and brown individuals who are the voices of their communities, spreading awareness and knowledge on mental health! There's a great selection of people and institutions and I know it's a great beginning of a revolution which will be joined by everyone else out there. 

    Follow along these gems: 

Ethel's Club
Black Women's Health Imperative

Again, I know that I am the last person to teach the world about mental health in black communities, but as a white person, it is my duty to make differences clear! Part of this big mess is white privilege and racism. I'm not calling you out, I am not excluding myself from this, but I definitely want to spread awareness and do my part to spark a conversation.

Because OFF COLOR is not only for me - this platform is for everybody, every race, gender, nationality, and everything else. I know that our struggles are different and no one can compare one experience with the other, but I want you to know that with the stories I am writing here, I hope to connect and maybe inspire a little. 
Just know you are not alone and together we can fight this battle. Please help spreading awareness and make this topic a more comfortable one in every community. 

Taking some deep breaths.  
I hope this post is opening some people's eyes today. 

Sending everyone hugs and lots of love. I hope you are feeling well ~