Black Mental Health Matters

Gabrielle Lowery

Staff Writer

“No Justice, No Peace.” A slogan written on the signs and posters of the Black Lives Matter movement and engraved into the minds of United States citizens. 

No peace goes beyond the protesting and is symbolic of the state of mind of individuals both directly and indirectly involved in the movement. The mental illness rates in the United States continue to rise and racism is certainly a contributing factor.

Many within the black community are exhausted by the continual hatred and brutality exhibited on and towards people of color. The laments and weeping of individuals can be heard and seen globally as protests continue to occur following the deaths of African American individuals. 

PC: Pexels

In The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently published article, Racism is a Serious Threat to the Public’s Health, they state, “Racism – both interpersonal and structural

external icon – negatively affects the mental and physical health of millions of people, preventing them from attaining their highest level of health, and consequently, affecting the health of our nation.”

The nation is at a point where the perpetual behavior of police officers shows clearly to some that there is a lack of care for the black community and that it will likely never end, which likely will lead to a steady uprising of mental illness.  

The Black Lives Matter movement was organized in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, all radical black women responding to the exoneration of George Zimmerman, following the death of Trayvon Martin.

According to their website, “The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. Our members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”

Though many have joined the movement and are working diligently to end hate crimes and police brutality, such crimes have become a repetitive cycle for the nation. All of this exposure to hate has a negative impact on the social relationships and social cohesion within the nation.

Trayvon Martin, 2013. Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, 2014. Walter Scott, 2015. In 2016 was the death of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. In 2018 it was Stephon Clark. Then in 2020 Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and now in 2021 the death of Daunte Wright. However, this list is far from the actual number of African Americans that have lost their lives at the hands of police brutality and hate crimes. 

According to the BBC, “some studies have suggested that racial trauma can also be passed from one generation to the next. The process of epigenetics is how experiences during a person’s life are thought to alter the readability of their genes through the addition of chemical switches to the DNA molecule. There is some evidence that suggests switches added after traumatic events can be passed down to future generations and manifest in the form of higher mortality rates.”

Living in the digital age makes it nearly impossible to escape the gruesome and saddening nature of the nation as it undergoes the challenges of racism. Seemingly, whatever the circumstances, the unfortunate pattern of brutality prevails leaving individuals drained and exhausted. 

While psychotherapists and counselors are available, the BBC shares that the majority of them are white, which makes it more difficult for black individuals to seek help and deal with trauma. 

The question remains – will it ever end? 

It is nearly impossible to not see the pattern, however, the issue is rooted deeply. As Joe Feagin book,  Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations affirms, “racism is embedded in all social institutions, structures, and social relations composed of intersecting, overlapping, and co-dependent racist institutions, policies, practices, ideas, and behaviors that give an unjust amount of resources, rights, and power to white people” – whilst denying them to black people.

Though the future may seem uncertain, it’s important to try to disconnect and lower the steady rise of mental illness. Disconnecting does not mean that you don’t care about the reality of the world, instead, it gives you leverage to have a better state of mind when acting and responding to a cause that you believe in.

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