Scared Hearts & Sacred Truths: Womyn's Mental Health
Last month, I wrote about Black men’s mental health. This month, the news has been flooded with headlines about Black women’s mental health—especially, the Olympic stars whose goals were altered because of their mental health/wellness needs. Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, and Sha’Carri Richardson reminded us how so many of us are vulnerable, frequently enduring unreasonable pressures—maybe with a smile, but often with scared hearts.
In addition to these headlines, we have been bombarded with stats and stories about how Black women have been impacted by COVID and community violence. Black women have been disproportionately impacted by COVID: more women have contracted the disease, have experienced more adverse outcomes, and have been overrepresented in the deaths. Additionally, more women have been saddled with the additional childcare, home teaching, caregiving, and health navigating during this intense period. Economists have also found that Black women were least likely to have jobs that allowed them to stay at home. And because of their caregiving responsibilities, far too many lost jobs, income, wealth, and became far more economically insecure.
These same groups have also been adversely and disproportionately impacted by community violence. Every shooting victim is someone’s child. Many are also someone’s brother, uncle, partner, father, friend and loved one of women and girls, who then carry the emotional and financial burdens of these incidents and sometimes losses. The last few years have been challenging for many women, and some of us might be feeling the weight.
While it’s okay not to be okay, if you have feelings of sadness, helpless and despair that don’t seem to let up and are impacting your daily life, it’s time to do something about it. The first step should always be checking in with yourself. How are you eating, sleeping, and functioning? Are you connecting to others? What’s the quality of your social supports? We should all have a toolbox of things that help us feel better. These include breathing strategies—check out 4-7-8 breathing—and things that help us connect to our bodies such as stretching, yoga, and muscle relaxation. Thirty minutes of regular movement each day can help. It does not have to be 30 minutes all at once; it can be in 10-minute increments. We need social connections—friends, family and/or a community that we trust and feel supported by. And, we also need sleep and a healthy diet. These are the basics. A lot of times we will feel mentally unwell when we are not physically well.
Every mental health condition has its own unique signs and symptoms that also vary by age, stage of life, and social context. NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) has a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms to look for that you should keep at on hand. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms. You can also check out the following resources: SAMHA’s National Treatment Referral Line: 1-800-662-HELP (4357); NAMI’s Helpline: 800-950-NAMI (6264); or the National Crisis Line, https://www.crisistextline.org/. You can and should always a primary care provider as a resource.
But if you want to know where to start, look for changes in your sleep, relationships, self-care and emotional responses. Also look for changes in the intensity of your emotions. Are you feeling more emotions. Do you feel more out of control of your emotions? Are you feeling numb? Are your emotions impacting you at home, at school or in the community? Are you using substances more? For example, are you using drugs, alcohol, food or sex to help you manage stress or feelings of distress? Have you experienced persistent feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and/or hopelessness and helplessness? And lastly, if you are a parent, do your feelings and mood frequently impair your ability to parent and/or care for your children?
If you have (or see in a loved one) any disturbing symptoms, reach out and have a conversation with a mental health provider, especially if they have persisted for three months or more. If something feels “off”, reach out for help just to have a conversation. Any thought of suicide and/or homicide requires an immediate conversation with a professional.
If you feel like you’re ready and interested in therapy, you might want to check out: Therapy for Blackgirls, https://therapyforblackgirls.com/; BEAM a directory of resources: https://www.beam.community/; Innopsych: https://www.innopsych.com/; and DRK Beauty Healing: https://thisisdrkbeauty.com/drk-healing/. (This list is definitely not comprehensive.)
Not every problem requires traditional talk therapy. Sometimes help can come from supportive relationships, trusted mentors and coaches, a trained faith leader, or a course.
Writer Muriel Rukeyser once asked, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” Perhaps it’s time for more of us to start telling the truth about our lives.
Until next month! Stay well and do, be & live better!