With the pandemic and protests our world has been experiencing, mental health is increasingly becoming more of a trending topic among some communities. Predominantly white Individuals and companies are coming together to share insights and raise awareness. Fashion companies, record labels, and media conglomerates regularly champion the issue. However, communities of color are majorly stigmatized when it comes to mental health, and in many cases, the topic is taboo. Many Black people—men specifically—want to get help but don’t have access to resources to get the help they need. Given the increased social unrest in our world, it’s past time to change the narrative and properly provide resources in the realm of mental health.
Last week, we teamed up with TheFutureParty to present a Creative Quarantine episode, called "You Are Not Alone— a discussion about the stigma of mental health within communities of color.
The conversation was led by Dr. Siri Sat Nam Singh—licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and host of VICELAND’s The Therapist, who spoke with a group of mental wellness experts, including Nina Westbrook, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist; Darian D. Hall, co-founder of HealHaus; Kaya Thomas, Sr. Engineer at Calm; and Emilia Ortiz, Bruja and Spiritual Healer.
As many of us are experiencing, this pandemic has proven to be a trying time. It’s not uncommon to experience loneliness and desperation, but as the panelists highlighted, a silver lining of quarantine and staying home has been that more and more people are seeking to better their mental health. Kaya Thomas, an engineer at Calm, found that more and more people are seeking help and wanting to learn more. Calm allows people to have a technological solution to lean on during this time when we all have been looking toward technology more than usual for our solutions. She wanted to emphasize that it’s normal to struggle and people should prioritize their mental fitness.
Panelist, Darian Hall opened up about meeting his father and how this was a turning point for him regarding mental health — this allowed him to begin having more meaningful conversations with his friends and people in his community.
Emilia Ortiz, spoke about the importance of being a woman of color within the mental health space, and how she believes it’s so important for people to have someone like them that they can lean on. She also spoke about the stigmas surrounding mental health while growing up in a Puerto Rican household, where mental health was often labeled a “white person problem” or where “being depressed was seen as being ungrateful.” The denial surrounding mental health, inhibits people from getting help and ultimately living a better quality of life.
Nina Westbrook, a mental health practitioner who juggles 3 kids and a husband in the NBA, spoke about the importance of empathy and acceptance when dealing with someone who is struggling with mental health or has been diagnosed with a disease. She also spoke about the stigma around medication and how although sometimes it’s necessary for some people in order to be their “best selves,” there can be great judgement around it.
While we spoke about mental wellness, the question of what it means or looks like to be "mentally healthy" was discussed. Kaya Thomas and Nina Westbrook described mental health as a holistic experience and being different for every person. While Darren Hall describes that for men, he believes a truly mentally healthy person has balance and allows themselves to feel the full range of emotions. Emilia Ortiz emphasized that not only is it vital to allow yourself to “feel all the feels,” but you know you’re in a good place when you can interact with your feelings in a productive way.
After a short Q&A with the audience, the panelists touched on how to use social media in a healthy way, how your diet can affect your mental health, and tips for supporting loved ones who are struggling with anxiety and mental health. To finish the experience, we had Brandon Breaux, an artist and designer, lead a guided meditation.
In celebration of the event, Billionaire Boys Club and TheFutureParty released a limited edition "You Are Not Alone" t-shirt, with proceeds from sales donated to the Boris L. Henson Foundation—a non-profit organization dedicated to providing mental health resources to communities of color.
We’re happy to have provided a space where real discussion on mental health within communities of color can start. It’s time to de-stigmatize mental health and allow for us all to be supported. Remember, you are not alone.