By Amaranthia Sepia for Boston Compass (#127)
September 19, 2020
"This land of mine remains safe and tranquil."
-Buddha, The Lotus Sutra
"Mending" is a sequel to pieces in my series, "Surviving in Isolation: The Black Mental Health Experience." "Mending" documents my own experiences with self-healing/self-advocacy for my mental health. I used this piece to represent how finding self-worth, recognizing my racial trauma as legitimate, and utilizing spiritual practices as a Buddhist, helped me begin my healing journey. I couldn't find professionals in my community that were not uncomfortable with my experiences. I also faced ableism from my own family. Struggling with racism, gaslighting, and isolation due to a racially insensitive, majority white, Christian community for years, I decided to look within myself as a start for my healing.
There's a deep-seated problem in the Black community where those with mental illness are shamed into silence. Many fear mental illness because we deal with various forms of discrimination already.
"Much of the pushback against seeking treatment stems from ideas along the lines of: We have survived so much adversity and now someone is going to say that there's something wrong with us."
-Clinical Associate Professor Ruth White
McLean Hospital's article, "How Can We Break Mental Health Barriers in Communities of Color?" discusses how Black mental health stigma stems from slavery - Black people weren't seen as sophisticated enough to have mental illness. Symptoms are labeled with words like 'tiredness' and 'stress.' Over time this, along with survival mentality due to intergenerational trauma, led to the idea of mental illness as a weakness. The piece further discusses how, when Black people seek help, professionals can be culturally insensitive, ignorant, and blatantly racist; Black people mostly depend on community, spirituality, and family instead. Black communities are 20% more likely to report acute psychological distress than white adults (via U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Mental Health), and experience mental and physical strife frequently. It's crucial to develop accessible resources catering to the Black mental health experience to save Black lives.
If you're a Black person struggling with mental health, seek these resources:
See Amaranthia’s personal essay “…A Black 20 Year Old’s Experience with Racial Trauma” and other artworks here.