Black History Month 2022: Black Health And Wellness
2022's Black History Month theme of Black health and wellness provides an opportunity to highlight mental health within the Black community.
March 3, 2022
This February’s Black History Month theme was Black Health and Wellness, with a needed inclusion of mental health. The movement to recognize and support mental health has a rich and lengthy history and has been a major matter of recent years. Many schools now have mental health counselors. Teachers have taken an initiative to ensure that their classrooms are a safe place for students who need someone to talk to. This Black History Month aimed to shine a light on mental health and wellness in the Black community.
Historical and continuous racism, generational trauma, racial disparity in the health care system, stigma, and more can affect Black Americans and their mental health.
In the black community there is such a stigma around mental health and how therapy is meant for white people. It is basically laughed at. ” — Sophomore Aniya Woody
In the black community there is such a stigma around mental health and how therapy is meant for white people. It is basically laughed at. ”
— Sophomore Aniya Woody
The taboo-ness of mental health is something that manifests in all communities and it doesn’t fail to affect Black communities. Sophomore Aniya Woody expresses that “In the black community there is such a stigma around mental health and how therapy is meant for white people. It is basically laughed at. A reason that could be is a lot of the time these resources are hard to get.”
SDHS mental health specialist Mr. Flowers has also witnessed the stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community. He believes that its more accepted among the younger generation, but is still stigmatized and confusing for members of the older generations. He states that when taking steps in an effort to solve the problem: “First and foremost, is increasing the number of accessible therapists of color that the Black community can access. That will normalize it I think amongst the community to see someone like yourself with similar cultural experiences and upbringing who is in the field and is able to respond to a mental health need. I think that normalizes it and gives someone more comfort in being able to access therapy services.”
Generational trauma is something that has formed from hundreds of years of historical racism and is a significant part of the mental health of the Black community. “Generational trauma and I think grief are two of the most salient mental health issues that the Black community faces,” says Mr. Flowers. “Generational trauma is the impact of what traumatic experience has on the physiological being as well as our mental state and cognitions that can easily pass down from grandparents to parents to children, because traumatic experiences do change the physiology of the brain – in the amygdala, the frontal cortex,” he explains. “These traumatic experiences are trying to help shape whoever experiences the trauma in a way that helps them survive. So in a way we might see certain brain structures shrink or increase in size in order to kind of compensate for what we envision our world might look like. If we’re constantly being abused or experiencing certain hurtful things, then we have to adapt in order to survive, and now those brain structures, those experiences, are being passed down in the way that we physiologically are, but also in the way that they parent, the expectations that they have for their children, and just the way that they see their social world as well.”
Addressing these concerns related to Black mental health and wellness is imperative. In February, Courageous Conversations regarding this Black History Month’s theme were hosted every Friday at lunch in the media center. All students were invited to join the inclusive space and share their thoughts, experiences, and opinions. Through talking and listening, the Media Center discussions provide a place for all to have significant discourse about subjects that may be excluded from everyday conversations.
“What inspired me to go to the Media Center on Friday was I know what it is like being in the Black community and how mental health is like and I wanted to hear other people’s thoughts on it,” explains Woody. “I think the conversation we had in the media center was actually great. After leaving I felt like it was a good conversation that I wish was longer to hear more opinions.”
We’ve constantly had to see this resilience over time from the Black community, amongst our physical states but also our social being as well. And I think that resilience has overshadowed the fact that we’re human and have the same experiences too.” — SDHS Mental Health Specialist Mr. Flowers
We’ve constantly had to see this resilience over time from the Black community, amongst our physical states but also our social being as well. And I think that resilience has overshadowed the fact that we’re human and have the same experiences too.”
— SDHS Mental Health Specialist Mr. Flowers
When asked about what this Black History Month’s theme means to him, Mr. Flowers responds that “It means everything. I think that often the Black community has been neglected I think in terms of their mental health because of internalized stigma, but also I think that there’s this notion that there’s this Black superiority at the same time, where Black people don’t experience pain for example,” he says citing a pseudoscience belief regarding Black people’s experience with pain that has negatively affected Black people in situations such as Black mothers experiencing lower rates of positive hospital support during pregnancy. “We’ve constantly had to see this resilience over time from the Black community, amongst our physical states but also our social being as well. And I think that resilience has overshadowed the fact that we’re human and have the same experiences too,” he adds.
Mr. Flowers notes that when participating in advocating for these issues, sharing posts online and spreading awareness are important, but not always enough. “It takes active work in being an ally, in being able to kind of take a stance, and being able to bring in resources, offer resources. I think being a lifelong learner, accepting that like even if I’m not racist, I can still practice anti-racism and learn it and understand it.”
2022’s Black History Month’s theme couldn’t be more important, and everyone can participate in honoring and learning about it. To educate yourself further on this topic, a helpful resource from the non-profit organization Mental Health America is linked here: https://mhanational.org/black-history-month. Mr.Flowers recommends the anti- racist author Ibram X. Kendi . And of course, SDHS’s mental health counselors are always here to help.