Since we’re in pursuit of a kinder, gentler world I invite you to have a bit of a paradigm shift about not just race but also mental health. A lot of you are just now realizing that if you’re black in America you are much more likely to be mistreated by nearly all of our institutions (and a lot of our citizens).
If you’re mentally ill? You’re more likely to be mistreated by everyone. Every community in this country carries their stigmas about mental health but we especially don’t hold space for it in people of color. I’ve witnessed it my entire life. Well-meaning suburban white women at Spirit of Hope referring to the population we were there to serve as if their station in life somehow made them less than human.
Our “culture” defines wellness in terms of productivity. Oh, you’re depressed? That’s a problem. We don’t want to take care of you, get up and dust yourself off. Get to work.
We’ve made the inability to participate in capitalism a pathology to be treated.
We throw around terms like ‘panic attack’ and ‘ocd’ to explain plain ol’ worry and normal ass preferences because labeling it a as a condition gives us a bit of a shield from other people. From judgement. It gives us a little runway to heal ourselves. Because until COVID, taking 3 months off work to meditate or heal or work through a trauma seemed UNIMAGINABLE. Seriously, imagine walking outside in the morning with your cup of coffee and smiling at your neighbor and when they ask how you are, your reply is: “I’m having a hard time right now, but I’m taking a few weeks off to treat my depression” and their response is “good for you”
How many of you have gossiped about someone having a hard time. Or questioned how serious an invisible illness is. Stop it. Now is a great time to knock that off.
The causal way we use with these words also lends to the illusion that they’re not severe. If you’re anxious right now, it’s not a mental illness. You have a good damn reason to be. If you’re sad right now, same. But a portion of our population just can’t go to work because they’re not sad or worried, they’re depressed. They’re just not built for it. Do we find a way to include them in our communities? No, we set them to the side. We lose them to drugs, to homelessness, and very often police violence.
Someone born with schizophrenia today, in America, into poverty and as a person of color is a societal burden we turn our heads away from. Had that person been born in a tribal country, they might just be a shaman. In a rich household? The best doctors and medicines. If Christians can eat a wafer and call it the blood of Christ then maybe we can make room for shaman. If our police can afford tanks, we can afford mental health intervention.
Our worth as humans is not tied to our productivity or our ability to hold a job. And the majority of people are trying their best. So give them space. And by doing so, maybe you’ll give that same space to yourself. And we can dismantle the illusion of having this audience that polices our thoughts and stops us from giving others what we wish we had for ourselves.
Our police don’t need helicopters when the people below them don’t have food. Our people need mental health resources that are rooted in empathy, compassion and care. And the bar doesn’t always need to be a job, sometimes it can just be living.