As an African American Licensed Mental Health therapist I have learned that in order to effectively help others heal, all of us must make sure the environments we work in spaces that positively affirm us. I read often about the maternal mortality crisis in Black American women, the #metoo, #hiddenherstory, #BlackLivesMatter, and #SayHerName movements and I notice a common missing thread. A missing dialogue. There is silence from major minority led social justice and minority maternal health organizations about the mental health implications of trauma in the Black community. The term “trauma informed care” is highly misused by these organizations and not even treated with the follow up mental health care required for Trauma Informed Care by these organizations. Why? Because the negative stigma associated with mental health in the African American community is almost crippling us from being able to have trans-formative conversations with the systems that feed, house, educate, and medically help us. Trauma Informed Care is 100% a mental health issue. It’s okay to talk about our mental health. It’s okay to go beyond calling your issues “stress”.
Unfortunately many of those systems have long histories of mistrust and oppression within the Black American community. However we must have meaningful dialogue with all people that provide health, nutrition, legal, and educational services to women of color. We must have the meaningful dialogue about how being culturally informed is not an ethical practice but culturally competent care is. We can’t expect systems to as Jay -Z says “heal what we won’t reveal” to each other, the rapper say “We can’t heal what we don’t reveal”.
But, seriously, studies show that Black American women are 4x more likely to have PTSD than any other population in the U.S. When that PTSD goes untreated it makes us more vulnerable for postpartum depression. Did I mention that according to Mental Health America over 6.8 million African Americans has had a diagnosable mental illness in the past year. Thus African American moms are 2x more likely to have maternal mental health problems (postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, etc.). Is it a wonder that Black women are 2-6x more likely to die from complications of pregnancy compared to White women? Our bodies hold trauma when we don’t deal with them effectively. Mental health is very much connected to health issues that plague the Black American community like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc.
My goal this year is to promote culturally competent mental health awareness for women and girls locally and hopefully nationally. I think it’s important for us women of color to not only claim our narratives but to help train the people who serve us on how to care and nurture us. It is important that we are inclusive of all people that are passionate about our narratives and nurturing us so that we can continue to pour into our fabulous selves.
Posted on this blog post are pictures from my training at Howard University in Washington, DC titled “Perinatal Mood Disorder and Minority Mental Health”. The training was held March 9, 2018. The purpose of the training is to teach healers, health care providers, community members, moms, and therapists how to provide culturally competent mental health screening and intervention to African American mothers. Women traveled from Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn to participate in my training at this wonderful HBCU. Be on the look out as I will host this training in person again and will be offering it in alternate formats…