The world is not particularly friendly to Black mental health. The constant reminders of Black oppression, the pandemic, and now, remote learning, have taken an exhausting toll on the mental health of Black teens.
Black teens across the country are facing burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Burnout looks differently for Black teens than teens of other demographics, as the taboo nature of mental health in the Black community means issues such as burnout often go unaddressed, and develop into more serious mental health issues such as depression. There is a present disconnect between Black teens and their parents over the severity and importance of mental health issues, that leaves Black teens feeling invisible within their own homes.
Black parents often grow up in environments without readily accessible mental health resources. Discussions relating to anxiety, depression, difficulties dealing with anger, stress, and other challenges faced by today’s black parents in their youth were not usually had. Black parents cannot foster mentally healthy and safe environments, without the knowledge of how to create these environments for themselves. Mental health can and should be a partnership between parent and child. Black parents should seek out mental health resources for both themselves and their children, allowing both parties to learn coping strategies, and ways to effectively communicate their unique struggles.
It is crucial to recognize that the beginning of a mental health journey is rarely easy or simple. Black adults are less likely to seek out mental health treatment as a result of existing distrust between the Black community and healthcare professionals. Black adults are more likely, if at all, to seek out Black therapists or mental health professionals, who account for only 4% of all mental health professionals working in the United States.
Although there is valid reason for hesitation, we owe it to ourselves to seek out and try therapy and other behavioral health supports, as mental health disproportionately affects Black people. Black teenagers are 3% more likely to commit suicide than their white counterparts, and Black adults experience feelings of sadness and worthleness more frequently than white adults. These statistics can be attributed to numerous factors: poverty, race, insecurities, and several others. More important than the statistics, is the action we take to combat them.
To the Black teen or parent who may want to begin their mental health journey, there are mental health resources that have been curated for the Black experience. Therapy for Black Girls encourages the accessibility of mental health resources to Black women and young girls specifically. The website includes a tool to find Black therapists, and a blog that can help to begin to educate Black women on how to begin advocating for their mental health.
Unrelated but similar, is Therapy For Black Men, which works to provide therapy options for Black men, as well as educate Black men on the mental health issues in the Black community as a whole.
If you are not yet ready for therapy but still want to dip your toe in the pool of mental health, podcasts are a great tool. Podcasts can be either an individual or shared experience, and can allow us to reflect on our own experiences, and try tools mentioned by podcast hosts. Podcasts such as Let’s Talk Bruh, Brown Girl Self Care, and Black Mental Health Podcast are great starting points. These podcasts are hosted by Black people with mental health experience, and their target audience is Black people. They are understanding voices, who are no stranger to the stigma, the struggle, and bravery in discussing mental health.
We have to first be there for ourselves, before we can be there for our friends and families. Mental health should not be stigmatized. It should be a communal effort and goal to improve the mental health of the Black community.
Black people should not be invisible to each other in a country where we are both hyper visible and invisible. We have to see each other. Black teens, I see you. Black parents, I see you. Black people, I see you.